Next Step On CAP Reform

08 July 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today congratulated his Lib Dem MEP colleague George Lyon as the Parliament, as expected, endorsed the recommendations of the Agriculture Committee on the future direction of CAP reform, though Smith also expressed his concern that the already overcomplicated CAP will be made more complicated, not simpler.

The report was approved by a substantial majority.

Smith has also published a timetable of the next steps in the reform process now that reform can commence in earnest, and warned that the whole process is essentially pointless unless the agriculture share of the EU budget is not defended and used efficiently.

Having taken part in the debate in the morning, speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"There is much in this report to be content with, and considering that some of the member state governments want to stop all direct support to farmers, it is a relief that the MEPs are clearly on the side of agriculture.
"Equally, we need to be realistic about where MEPs are in this process.  Today is the start of the formal process, so the Commission now has some thinking time over the summer to come up with their blueprint for reform.  The public debate within the Parliament will have been useful in working out the view of the MEPs, who will have full co-decision power on the future reports, where the report today is not binding.
"The report initially attracted a huge amount of amendments, but the end result is solid enough, and does state my own priority that the purpose of the CAP is to produce food.  It is not a jobs policy, it is not an economic policy, it is not an environmental policy - the fact that Europe's citizens have been able to get used to cheap and available food is part of our national security.
"However, where the report does say that, it says a lot of other things as well, and if everything is a priority nothing is a priority.  More importantly, if there are a dozen different priorities within CAP then the budget negotiations will be more and more complex, and with a number of member states, including the UK, wanting to end direct payments to farmers we'll have our work cut out for us as the debate moves on."

TIMELINE ON CAP REFORM

  • 19/20 July 2010: "CAP Post 2013" Conference in Brussels, organised by the Commission, to round off public consultation.
  • November 2010: Presentation by the Commission of a communication on the Future of the CAP.
  • First half of 2011: European Parliament initiative report on the Commission Communication.
  • Mid 2011: Commission presents legislative proposals on CAP reform.  The European Parliament will produce a legislative report (or reports, depending upon the proposed structure of the package), and the Council will also negotiate a common position, based on the co-decision procedure giving the European parliament full powers.
  • End 2012: Agreement must be reached, to enter into force, perhaps with phase in periods, by January 2013.

Mr Smith's speech in the debate this morning is below:
Mr President, I shall be no exception in congratulating my Scottish colleague, George Lyon, on a very solid report. There is much in this report to be content with and I echo the comments of a number of colleagues this morning. I particularly like the very clear reference in the report that food production is the primary purpose of the common agricultural policy. Everything else is very worthy, very desirable, but secondary.
We must be clear in our own minds that food security is an integral part of our European national security and the primary public benefit of the CAP which is worth paying for in its own right. I pick up particularly on Mr La Via’s comments on the budget, which have been echoed by remarkably few colleagues this morning. Perhaps it is a little stereotypically Scottish to focus so much on the budget, but, unless we have sufficient monetary resources allocated to this policy, it is all pointless. I would be grateful for a few words from our Commissioner about how he proposes to defend that budget going forward, not least because a number of Member States, including Britain, want to end direct payments to farmers.
You can, however, rest assured of the support of this House in maintaining a workable CAP and a workable budget, and this forms a good basis for ongoing discussion.