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THE NFU has called on the EU Commission to give a clear commitment that farmers in agri-environment schemes will not be penalised by its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform plans.
The NFU believes farmers might want to withdraw from agri-environment schemes if the terms of their five year contracts change due to plans to attach new ‘greening’ measures to direct payments.
NFU president Peter Kendall said they must be able to do so without penalty.
His comments at the Northern Farming Conference on Thursday came in response to reports that applications to the Entry Level Scheme and the Higher Level Scheme have been drying up in the face of uncertainty over the impact of CAP reform on these schemes.
“The greening of Pillar One has obvious implications for some measures in the ELS,” Mr Kendall said.
“We are already seeing ELS applications drying up because of the uncertainty over the position of farmers’ agreements in the context of greening proposals. Will they be able to count their ELS commitments towards their greening obligations?
“Or will they face a double whammy of greening on top of ELS when the CAP reforms kick in? And, if so, will they be able to leave the ELS without facing a demand for compensation?
“Farmers need answers to those questions, and they need them now.
“We’re therefore calling on the EU Commission to give a clear undertaking that if the reformed CAP in any way alters the terms of the five year contracts, which farmers have entered into, they must be given the right to withdraw without penalty.”
Mr Kendall branded the Commission’s reform proposals as ‘a dog’s breakfast’ and said the agri-environment scheme threat was one of a number of ‘potential unintended consequences’
He said there was a very real threat that the ‘greening’ plans could actually damage the environment if they put farmers off joining the ELS or ‘frightened them into ploughing up permanent pasture’.
Mr Kendall appealed to NFU members not to attempt to second-guess the impact of the reforms by taking pre-emptive action, stressing that there was still ‘everything to play for in making sense of these proposals’.
Mr Kendall also attacked the proposals for their likely impact on farming productivity.
“In a week which has seen the world’s population reach seven billion, agricultural productivity has to be the number one priority for policy-makers.
“The Commission’s current proposals are a dog’s breakfast of sops to this or that lobby group, which threaten all sorts of unintended, but highly damaging consequences, both for farming and the environment,” he said.
21 November 2013
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