Plans to overhaul the way farmers receive their single farm payment are likely to be delayed until 2015, according to farm minister Jim Paice.
Speaking to journalists after addressing the Cropworld conference in London on Monday (31 October), Mr Paice said it was widely acknowledged that changes to the Common Agricultural Policy would not be agreed by the end of 2013.
He said proposals announced by the European Commission earlier this month – which include plans to cap the amount of support farmers receive – faced months of debate before all 27 member states agreed on them.
And while the official timetable had set the new-look CAP to be in place by 1 January 2014, that date was likely to be pushed back by at least a year.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks it will be agreed by the end 2013,” Mr Paice said. “I fear we are in for a very protracted argument.
“Obviously every country is trying to find common ground, but there are so many countries with different agricultural systems, I don’t see agreement happening in 2013.
“I think we need to be looking at how reform will fit with 2015.”
Mr Paice admitted the delay could pose challenges for the Rural Payments Agency, as contracts relating to the agency’s IT system would expire before the reform came in.
“Computer software support packages are time sensitive,” he said. “We will have to find a way through it and I can’t really comment on it until the board have discussed it.
“But we really need to sort out the problems we have at the moment and ensure we get payments out promptly in the next payment window.”
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