Luke Warm Thumbs Up For Agriculture Healthcheck

19 November 2008
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has given a lukewarm thumbs up to the eventual compromise package on the Common Agricultural Policy "Healthcheck", approved today in Strasbourg by the full Parliament.

The vote comes as the Member State Governments commence their meeting in Brussels to decide on the full package which should sign off on this limited reform, and more importantly set the stage for the opening of negotiations on the shape of the CAP post 2013. Mr Smith has also released a provisional assessment of the impact of the vote today in Strasbourg.

Mr Smith scored a number of victories, in particular on voluntary modulation; making set aside a normal entitlement; including sheep, beef and goat payments in a single payment scheme by 2010; and establishing the principle that any adjustments in modulation must not lead to lower general rural development funding. Mr Smith lost amendments on decoupling for sheep and beef and on deleting progressive modulation, as well as retaining cross compliance as a tool against wildlife crime.

Speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"The Healthcheck is dead, long live the post-2013 reform discussions. The Healthcheck was only ever designed to be a tidying up exercise, and some of those aims have been achieved today. What is already clear, however, is that this is just a minor staging post on the way to wholesale reform and those discussions begin in earnest now."The final vote was a mixed bag, a few steps forward, a few setbacks. I'm pleased that we have brought some clarity to how modulation will impact on Scots farmers, and raising the rate of support available to new entrants to farming will be significant. Making set aside a normal entitlement will also be an advantage for farming.

"Sadly, our amendments on retaining the current cross compliance regime as a tool in the fight against wildlife crime were defeated, but a degree of cross compliance will remain and our further amendments were successful in ensuring that what does remain will be as workable as possible. Similarly, our amendments deleting once and for all the daft subsidy for tobacco were defeated, though only just.

"All in all this is as workable a compromise as we were going to get, it sets the scene for the wholesale reform the CAP needs and we can now focus on a bigger canvass. I remain of the view that wholesale reform, done right, could see a more effective CAP providing support to farmers, a more effective structural funds regime providing environmental public goods and fighting climate change, and a total sum going to rural areas considerably greater than we now see. That is a pretty big prize and I'm focussed upon that from now on."