The NFU has launched a stinging attack on Chancellor Gordon Brown, accusing him of “shooting at the wrong target” in singling out the common agricultural policy (CAP) for further reform.
In an address to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday (5 June), Mr Brown said the key to boosting world economic growth was an end to agricultural protectionism.
“Europe should indicate that, when it comes to review its budget and its agricultural policies, the essential element of both will be a radical reform of the CAP and a timetable to end all forms of agricultural protectionism,” he told the assembled business leaders.
“CAP is a stain on our commitment to make globalisation work. Europe cannot tell developing countries to embrace globalisation without embracing change ourselves.
“That is why my message is that the G8 and Europe must show leadership in addressing the challenges of globalisation, by setting a timetable for the completion of trade talks and a timetable for fundamental CAP reform.”
But the claims have been dismissed as out of date and inappropriate by the NFU.
 “The CAP was radically reformed in 2003; the vast majority of its programmes are now classified as non-trade distorting by the WTO,” said director of policy Martin Haworth.
“This contrasts starkly with many of our world trading partners, most notably the USA.
“There is a review scheduled for 2008,” he added. “It is inappropriate for the Chancellor to call for this to be brought forward.
“Work is already starting behind the scenes to look at further changes, but the 2003 reform is only now starting to be implemented and it is too soon to be able to have a sound evidence base.”
The NFU believes the implementation of the reform has been badly mishandled in England. This has not only caused economic difficulties, but has damaged the appetite for further reform amongst farmers.
 “Last December the Treasury and DEFRA produced a joint Vision for the CAP,” said Mr Haworth. “The NFU said at the time that it was more likely to antagonise than persuade our European partners, and so it proved. The same is true of the call now to bring forward further changes.”