A major simplification of the CAP and the introduction of new measures to support farm incomes are just two of the ideas advanced in a new French “vision” paper.

Presented by French agriculture minister Dominique Bussereau at this week’s farm council in Brussels, the report also calls for measures to improve the global competitiveness of EU agriculture, while retaining a degree of protection in recognition of the higher standards Europe’s farmers have to adhere to.

The French minister also opposed any re-nationalisation of the CAP.

The paper, which was seen by observers as an attempt by France to reassert its authority following last year’s “No” vote on the EU constitution, won widespread support in the council.

In particular, the call “to lighten the burden of the CAP’s management rules” met with approval.

“The entire existing legislation should be systematically examined for options of simplification,” said the paper.

Cross-compliance was a particular priority, as was giving member states a greater say in how they spend their rural development money.

To help farmers deal with the “consequences of greater exposure to world markets”, the French paper also recommends a variety of income stabilisation tools, including an optional insurance scheme.

Private storage aid, processing aid, payments for cutting production and promotion programmes should also be used.

In total, 11 member states gave their full backing to the French proposals, which are intended to supplement the 2003 CAP reforms, but not replace them.

But the UK, Denmark and Sweden were less enthusiastic, preferring to see a more radical and earlier reform of the CAP, such as the one set out in DEFRA’s Vision report published last December, which called for an end to all farm subsidies by 2020.

The NFU, however, says it has lots of common ground with the French memorandum.

“By highlighting the importance of communication, competitiveness, reducing the regulatory burden and refusing re-nationalisation, the document aligns itself with four of our core concepts,” said a statement.

Chief economist Carmen Suarez applauded the positive messages about the role agriculture will play in meeting the challenges of a booming world population, global warming and the depletion of non-renewable resources.

“We need to communicate this with society to present a more modern image of farming,” she said.

philip.clarke@rbi.co.uk