Good Day For Agriculture In Brussels
After a mammoth three hour voting session in the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee which was blighted by technical difficulties, both the Dorfmann report on agriculture in areas with natural handicaps, dealing with the complex issue of LFA reform and the Ashworth report on CAP simplification were passed convincingly.
The Dorfmann report saw four out of Smith's five proposed amendments passed, ensuring that:
- future LFA payments are linked to active farming;
- that the Rural Development budget is protected;
- that socio-economic criteria (such as distance from markets and depopulated) are examined on an objective basis;
- and that the reform of the LFA scheme is considered within the wider context of CAP reform.
The Ashworth report was also largely positive, with particular success for Smith with the passing of his amendment calling for an amnesty for EID cross-compliance penalties for three years. The amendment was drafted by Smith but lodged on a cross party basis with other MEPs - Richard Ashworth from England, Jim Nicholson from Northern Ireland and fellow Scottish MEP George Lyon.
"Despite the technical difficulties, we got there in the end, and the irony of our electronic voting system breaking down while voting on EID will not be lost on Scotland's farmers. Minus a few small points, this has been a good day for Scottish agriculture and good news for Scotland - the Agriculture Committee did a decent shift today.
"The Dorfmann report has been a particularly useful, with most of my amendments passed. While I am disappointed that other members did not see the value in having powers and flexibility kept to regional levels where possible, we did at least see that any economic fine tuning will be done on a voluntary basis. This means that it will be the member states who decide whether they will take those areas that have overcome their handicaps out of the LFA scheme or not. I was also very heartened to see that the Agriculture Committee supports my calls for socio-economic criteria to be taken into account in future LFA proposals.
"Again, the Ashworth report was a good one and I am delighted to see the EID amnesty on cross-compliance penalties passed. This goes hand in hand with the amendment calling for cross-compliance fines to be proportionate to the infringement, and not applied in the case of mistakes. It is good to know that the NFU campaign now has the support of the Agriculture Committee as a whole.
"One big black mark on the Ashworth report has to be the Committee yet again bemoaning the dismantling of the EU marketing rules for the fruit and veg sector. This subject just refuses to go away.
"However, all in all today has been a good day for our agriculture sector."
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