Rules around greening the CAP need to be agreed as quickly as possible and implemented fairly if UK farmers are to be given the freedom to get on with producing food, according to the NFU.
Union president Peter Kendall said farmers faced unnecessary bureaucracy from rules that threatened to overcomplicate UK agriculture unless DEFRA used its powers to insist on fair and simple regulations.
Speaking at a House of Lords EU select committee meeting in London on Wednesday, Mr Kendall said the government wanted to avoid the risk of duplicating environmental measures already being carried out by farmers, but the rules had to be fair across Europe.
He said the NFU and DEFRA needed to form a delegation to talk to the commission as soon as possible about the rules around greening to ensure UK farmers did not end up being unfairly punished.
Describing the greening policy as a “horrible muddle,” he said DEFRA and the RPA had power to decide what would count towards ecological focus areas, but that those rules had to be fair across Europe and not risk leaving UK farmers facing financial penalties.
Forcing UK farmers to take land out of production and making some producers grow three different crops when there was no environmental or market logic was madness and DEFRA needed to work with the commission to come up with alternatives, he added.
“We have concerns that the UK government is seeking maximum flexibility to impose its own greening when we have learned from previous reforms that there’s in excess of £500m of disallowances,” he told the committee.
“On the one hand we have the UK government seeking maximum flexibility without risking disallowance, but we have the commission, which can’t tell us the rules of implementation until the end of the year.”
There was a risk of computer systems being put in place to handle a more flexible system, only for the commission to decide the regulations were very different, he added.
“I want to work with government to go to the commission as soon as possible and tell them we will get more environmental benefit from our farmers if we can confirm that this flexible approach will be agreed as soon as possible.”