The European Parliament’s agriculture committee has reduced the European Commission’s CAP reform proposals to just 100 “compromise’ amendments.

MEPs had previously lodged 7,500 amendments to the European Commission’s original proposals, drawn up last autumn.

But news that they have managed to knock down the bulk of the amendments to just 100 has resulted in a “more meaningful, workable and acceptable” plan, the NFU said.

The agriculture committee will vote on the amendments on 23-24 January. The committee’s draft report will then be sent to the plenary of the European Parliament in order to agree the parliament’s negotiating position ahead of crunch talks in 2013 on the future CAP.

The aim is to have the agreement in place by the end of the Irish presidency of the EU at the end of June 2013, provided that the EU’s overall budget for 2014-20 has been finalised by then.

Last month, NFU president Peter Kendall led a delegation to Strasbourg to meet 20 leading MEPs to fight for a policy that would allow British farmers to compete on a level playing field with the rest of Europe.

Speaking on Tuesday (18 December), Mr Kendall praised MEPs on doing a “remarkable job” of whittling down the record-breaking number of amendments.

He said significant progress had been made in key policy areas, including the “active farmer” test, ensuring greater flexibility around payment entitlements, securing a workable national reserve accessible to new and young entrants, maintaining vital elements of the sugar regime and introducing a proportionate penalty system.

But he warned that parts of the compromise package remained “very concerning”.

“For example, giving member states greater scope to make coupled support payments, attempts to introduce market supply measures in the dairy sector and the efforts by some member states to hold on indefinitely to the higher payment levels associated with the historic payment model.”

DEFRA has been lobbying hard for the power to reduce direct payments made to farmers by up to 20% in England, Mr Kendall said.

“It’s an incredibly hollow victory, but I am relieved that MEPs would limit the amount DEFRA could transfer in theory to a maximum of 15% and would require that money to be match-funded by the Treasury.”

He also feared DEFRA will attempt to opt-out of the European system of “greening” and implement a more demanding and costly form of “ELS light” for English farmers, increasing the regulatory burden.

Mr Kendall said: “The number-one priority for the NFU remains fairness of treatment. Whatever the final outcome of the CAP discussions, the conditions placed on English farmers must be equivalent to those faced by their main competitors.

“The ideological policy stance of UK government with regards to the CAP policy should not be allowed to put our farmers at a competitive disadvantage compared to other European farmers.”

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