BACK in January, members of the European Parliament agricultural committee may have whittled their 7,000 plus amendments to the Commissioner’s proposals to amend the common agricultural policy (CAP) into a workable package.
But yesterday, in a warm-up session prior to the full Parliamentary plenary debate today, it was obvious that, quite apart from the 330 amendments still to be dealt with, there remained considerable divisions between politicians on how they want the EU agricultural industry to look up to 2020.
Several MEPs described the package as it now stands as a major step backwards in policy with a reappearance of intervention buying for crops such as tobacco being on the cards.
UK MEP Julie Girling – who called the environmental proposals a “kindergarten approach” – and her Conservative colleagues opposed any form of coupled aid from the CAP. On this, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness tabled an amendment to limit the maximum amount of coupled aid payments payable to no more than 10 per cent of the available cash.
That contrasts with the 15 per cent supported by the majority of MEPs back in January. The English NFU position is to have no more than 5 per cent coupled payments, itself a contrast with NFU Scotland who value the coupled support as helping to keep livestock in the hills.
Scottish MEP Alyn Smith opposed another proposal which is similar to the crop insurance policy operated by the United States, describing this income stabilisation as “wrong in principle, dubious in law and potentially disastrous in its financial implications”.
“We think this is a poor use of public money and it really is a deal breaker for our group on what is otherwise a very positive dossier.”
Fellow Scot George Lyon highlighted the anomaly where some farmers could be paid twice for environmental schemes, saying all farmers should be treated equally.
The version of the next CAP from the Parliament over the next two days will help the Irish presidency to push forward in getting the Council of Ministers to agree before they hand over the top seat at the end of June.