CAP reform proposals seen as ‘good news’

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AFTER two days in which the European Union agricultural committee provided what will be the framework for the next Common Agricultural Policy, NFU Scotland’s policy director, Jonnie Hall considered “much of it to be good news.”

“When matching up NFU Scotland’s priorities for CAP reform against what has been mapped out by the European parliament’s agricultural committee, it is clear that there has been significant progress in most, if not all, the Union’s key requirements.

He added that yesterday’s vote on reducing the administrative burden and disproportionate penalty system attached to cross-compliance requirements was a plus; especially as it might herald significant progress in addressing some of the issues around sheep EID.

“MEPs voted to delete sheep, cattle and pigs EID from cross compliance requirements. They also, helpfully, called for cross compliance to be carried out “in an efficient, risk-based and proportionate, coherent and non-discriminatory way.

“In that vein, they said administrative penalties are not to be imposed for non-compliance which is due to technical failure of the systems for identification and registration of animals.”

The Union was also supportive of MEPs calling for penalties to be proportionate and, for first time offences, a warning system be put in place

“These are common-sense approaches to a cross-compliance penalty system that, every year, causes a great deal of worry and concern to Scottish farmers,” said Hall

The environmental proposals put forward by the agricultural commissioner have been watered down by the MEPs, and those farmers who choose not to adopt the greening measures will not lose their basic payment.

The next major hurdle comes on 7 February, when heads of state decide the EU budget from which the CAP will be taken.

Chair of the committee Paulo De Castro MEP admitted that if there were major budget cuts the CAP package might have to come back to the committee.

Committee member and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith described the removal of EID from cross compliance as a major scoop: “I know all too well just how much of a relief this would be to so many of our farmers.”

It was not all good news though for Smith, as he regretted an amendment that removes the publication of names of all those who will receive CAP payments.

Commenting on the setting of a maximum amount of support cash (300,000 euros) any individual farmer might receive, Luis Manuel Capoulos, MEP described it as a “first step towards fairness” but an NFUS spokesman described it as dangerous as it could lead to the artificial breakup of large farms trying to avoid any such top limit.