UK farming union leaders turned up in force in Brussels yesterday as part of a major lobbying exercise on tidying up the unresolved parts of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the impact of trade deals and the Russian ban.
Their targets for the offensive were the old and new MEPs as well as senior European Commission and UK Government officials and other European farming union representatives based in the hub of the European Union.
One of the top priorities for Nigel Miller, president of NFU Scotland, was the lack of detail in some parts of the CAP.
He said: “For many farmers, time has already run out. Cropping plans were made a long time ago and crops are in the ground. Officials don’t seem to grasp just how much uncertainty and confusion remains on the ground amongst farmers.
“The UK administrations are struggling to make guidance available because the EU administrators haven’t told them what needs to be done in order to fully comply and pass future EU audits.” He feared that the unfortunate victim of the impasse could be the farmers who unwittingly sowed crops which were subsequently ruled ineligible by auditors.
“I want tolerances and a light touch for compliance in the early years whilst the new rules bed in.”
English NFU leader Meurig Raymond targeted the new batch of MEPs elected back in June and the fact they will be interrogating Commissioner-designate Phil Hogan on 2 October.
“We have an excellent opportunity to work with MEPs to influence how the parliament plans to shape the new commissioner’s political priorities for the next five years.”
As the leader of the farmers’ union furthest from the centre of power in Brussels, Ian Marshall, of the Ulster Farmers Union, concentrated on the negative ripple effect the Russian trade ban was having on farmers in Northern Ireland.
“The Russian trade ban has placed further pressure on what is an already weak European and global dairy market. The signs of that impact on the European market are now showing through as UK prices start to track EU prices.”
He wanted to see the Commission monitor the effects of the ban and take any necessary remedial steps, especially in the European milk market.
Another topic for Raymond was the negative effect the EU’s approach on plant protection products was having.
“Farmers are struggling to establish crops such as oilseed rape, attacked by pests previously controlled by protection products now banned by the EU.
He claimed: “Whilst the rest of the world embraces science- based solutions, the EU grapples with a highly charged debate on the application of modern technology in farming.
“I want to see the EU’s decisions based on science and not emotion.”