Scots Agriculture MEP Gives Yellow Card To "Mixed Bag" Reform Vote

15 October 2008
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has expressed his disappointment over the eventual approval yesterday evening of the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy.

The mammoth, and at times bad tempered, three and a half hour voting session saw a number of successes for Smith with a number of his amendments being passed, but on balance the overall package was not the tidying up exercise it should have been and Smith voted against. The committee as a whole voted to approve the package.

In a very technical series of votes, Smith won approval for his proposals on reducing the burden of cross compliance; on set aside becoming a normal entitlement; and on encouraging the decoupling of payments in the sheep, goat and beef sectors. Smith also won support for an amendment to the effect that as compulsory modulation (across the EU) increases so (member state specific) voluntary modulation will decrease though with no reduction in overall rural development funding, thereby levelling the playing field across the EU.

Crucially however, provisions enforcing so called "progressive modulation "whereby direct payments to farmers are diverted to other more general support schemes were approved, and Smith fears this mechanism will expand the much criticised voluntary modulation already in place. SNP attempts to enforce more rigorous decoupling of additional livestock payments were also defeated, which is a blow for the goal of simplifying the CAP.

Speaking after the vote Smith said:

"The CAP Healthcheck has been touted as a tidying up and clarification exercise, and I'm not sure the Agriculture Committee has covered itself in glory after a tangled and confused voting session that produced a very mixed bag of plusses and minuses. For all the work that has gone into this dossier we should have made more progress.

"On balance I voted against on the basis that this should have made things simpler and in fact it makes things more complicated at a time when we could do without any added confusion as we look towards wholesale reform discussions starting in earnest.

"I'm pleased that we saw a number of SNP ideas taken forward, particularly on reducing overall administration and on simplifying livestock payments (sheep, goat and beef sector) by including them into the single payment scheme. We also had a small but satisfying win on making tobacco payments a bit harder because it just irritates me that the EU spends public money to support the production of a crop we then spend millions more trying to dissuade people from consuming.

"All in all, a pretty unsatisfying day and my own verdict on the package is a yellow card, and I hope we will be able to iron out some of the confusions when this comes before the full parliament at our next plenary session in a few weeks."