UK CAP View Unworkable And Unpopular

01 February 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has today expressed his disappointment and bewilderment at DEFRA's response to the European Commission's official consultation on their white paper on CAP reform.

Following on from Environment Minister Caroline Spelman's unpopular and out-of-touch speech at the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month, the consultation response calls for Pillar 1 "to become a transitional measure", with CAP support redirected to environmental outcomes in Pillar 2, with market regulation measures almost entirely abolished and farmers urged to rely on their "competitiveness".  Furthermore, the paper demands "a very substantial cut to the CAP Budget during the next Financial Framework."

The policies, already widely rejected by Scottish farming organisations, are diametrically opposed to the joint position laid out by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments, who call for the retention of direct payments, despite the fact that DEFRA claim to have "consulted" the devolved governments "on the UK Government's initial view."

Smith said:

"It just goes from bad to worse. Caroline Spelman is in a hole, and she's still digging.  So much for the notion that the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were going to be "consulted" and their positions incorporated into the UK Government's final response.

"It is clearer than ever that DEFRA's thinking has been captured by market fundamentalism, a state of mind wholly inappropriate to the vital matter of securing our food supplies, and even a cold dose of reality won't interfere with this.

"This document really is remarkable. We're more than familiar with their proposals on CAP reform, which would be utterly disastrous for the maintenance of indigenous food production in large parts of Scotland. Yet I also read, with surprise, that "The UK believes that Europe's farmers have bright prospects...they will earn enough from the produce they sell and from payments for the provision of public goods to provide them with a sustainable income." Who wants to bet on that in a world of volatile prices, rising input costs and squeezed margins due to retail and processor buying power? DEFRA's solution is for farmers to become more "competitive" and attain "better business skills". This is soft soap in an uncertain economic situation, where many farmers cannot even get a price to cover their basic production costs.

"I'm aggrieved that, after the promise of consultation, DEFRA have chosen to largely ignore the views of the devolved governments and maintain an unworkable, unpopular line on CAP reform. This reinforces what I have been saying for some time, that Westminster, with its obsession with penny-pinching and skewed agenda, is institutionally incapable of representing the interests of Scottish farming in European negotiations. The sooner we gain real power to negotiate for Scotland in the EU, the better."