Farm leaders have voiced concern that the Treasury is holding too much sway over the DEFRA’s stance on CAP reform, encouraging the department to push for a package that threatens to disadvantage British farmers.
Presentations by some government ministers at this month’s Conservative Party conference had been “quite frightening”, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond told a union council meeting on Tuesday (16 October).
“When David Cameron says he will veto any budget deal that isn’t good for the UK, you have to question what he actually means,” said Mr Raymond. A drive by DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson to reduce direct support payments to farmers ahead of other member states was equally concerning, he added.
Mr Paterson told one Tory fringe meeting it was “natural progression” to continue moving towards a system where the market decided which crops and livestock were grown and raised. On the other hand, rewarding farmers for looking after the environment was justified.
Referring to meeting other European farm ministers, Mr Paterson had admitted: “I was astonished by my first agriculture council.” When it got to any other business, other member states had called for increases in support payments, he added. “I was actually the only one who spoke up.”
Mr Raymond told NFU council that a situation where Mr Paterson was a lone voice among 26 other member states wasn’t necessarily in the best interests of British farmers. “It wasn’t the best way, I would suggest, for him to build relationships in the council chamber,” Mr Raymond said.
“We do have a huge problem as far as the UK Treasury and budgets is concerned,” Mr Raymond continued. “We have kept out of that debate, but however the cake is divided we want our equal share and we must not be disadvantaged.”