The European Parliament has today (Wednesday) voted (in a mammoth 150 minute voting session) on the shape of the Common Agricultural Policy for 2014 to 2020.
The four reports which make up the reform (Direct Payments, Rural Development, Horizontal Measures, Single Common Market Organisation) have now been amended by MEPs in order to form the European Parliament's negotiating position which will dictate the direction of discussions with Council.
Although the final results are still being dissected due to the large number of plenary amendments, some early observations can be made:
- So-called "double payments" have been removed (by 379 votes to 285) from the Rural Development dossier, which would have seen farmers able to claim for the same activity from two different funds.
- Sheep EID has been reinserted into the cross compliance regulations within the Horizontal Measures file.
- The Rural Development Report has seen the retention of a 5% ring fence for LEADER and higher co-financing rates for agri-environment schemes; agri-environment schemes and organic farming will receive a guaranteed 25% ring fence of the EAFRD funds.
- MEPs approved a cap on direct payments of EUR 300,000.
- On greening, we return to the Commission position on the framework of greening meaning three mandatory measures (crop diversification, permanent pasture, ecological focus areas), without the additional possibilities to qualify through an agri-environment scheme or an environmental certification scheme.
- The retirement scheme for small farmers (payments to small farmers to leave their farms and sell them to other farmers to create more "economically viable" units) was successful.
- MEPs voted to maintain the export refunds instrument which has a negative impact on food production in developing countries.
Speaking after the voting session, Alyn said:
"This final vote has been a mixed bag with a few steps forward, a few setbacks but, by and large, I am quite satisfied with the result.
"There were a few red lines for me on the Direct Payments Report. However, thanks to the failure of the attempt to delete coupled support and the rejection of efforts to include mandatory but unworkable crop rotation measures, I was pleased to add my support.
"Rural Development, the report for which I was Shadow Rapporteur, saw the firm rejection of double payments by the Parliament. This should never have got through Committee and so underlines the value of these final full Parliament votes. Less Favoured Area reform has also been officially postponed for two years until we have adequate data upon which we can base our discussions which is a good move.
"One point of frustration is the passage of proposals on risk management on crop insurance and an Income Stabilisation Tool to "hedge" farmers' income against market fluctuations. This has the potential to eat up vast sums of the Rural Development budget, provides a disincentive for farmers to engage in sustainable and preventative practices, and pads the profits of insurance companies. My silver lining is that this is a voluntary measure which is very unlikely to be taken up by DEFRA.
"On the report on Horizontal Measures, we have seen all the cross-compliance measures that were taken out in Committee put back in again. This, unfortunately, includes EID. I hope to see the Council take a more pragmatic approach on this point in the forthcoming negotiations and am disappointed that the Parliament missed this chance.
"Further, the small farmer retirement scheme is an embarrassment and should not be in the final report. Paying farmers to leave farming is a poor use of public money and undermines the need for diversity in farm size and types of holding - small farms are not necessarily inefficient as we have plenty evidence in Scotland.
"There is still some way to go before we can see the final shape of agriculture and rural development in Europe for the next seven years, but judging from this vote, there is much that can be welcomed for Scottish agriculture."