NFU president Peter Kendall has accused the government of “ducking out” of its responsibility to farmers in England by proposing to introduce a 15% modulation rate on CAP payments.
Mr Kendall said NFU meetings up and down the country during the past few weeks had demonstrated a “resounding majority” of members oppose modulation.
DEFRA is determined to push through the full modulation by transferring 15% of direct payments to Pillar 2 rural development schemes in the implementation of the CAP in England.
DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson has insisted there is a “strong case” for transferring the maximum rate, to invest in schemes that would boost rural economic growth and enhance the environment.
But the NFU has called for the modulation rate to remain at 9% during the next seven years, arguing it is better for farmers to spend money as they see fit rather than have complicated schemes thrown at them.
Mr Kendall said cashflow on many farms was in “terrible shape” and taking an extra 6% off farmers to fund green schemes yet to be developed “must be wrong”.
“Setting a rate of 9% modulation for 2014 and then revisiting this rate in 2017 should more than meet the needs of schemes currently outlined,” said Mr Kendall.
“This is surely better than taking 15% because our government ideologically believe they can spend money better than us farmers.”
The NFU’s research has shown that only about one in nine farmers will get more out of modulation than they put in, and this was “likely to get worse in the future”, Mr Kendall warned.
Whereas in the past Pillar 2 funds were available to all farmers through Enty-Level Stewardship (ELS), covering 70% of land, the NFU said the New Environmental Land Management Scheme (NELMS) would be available to less than 50% of today’s recipients.
Mr Kendall said: “This is a classic case of CAP implementation being divisive among our members.
“We have argued that currently we should only modulate on a needs-must basis. NELMS will not meet funds until the end of 2016 and we have so far seen no details of schemes to help farmers invest in competitiveness.”
He added: “Our environmental schemes are important, but our own government has ducked out of its responsibility.
“We are the only country in the whole of Europe currently modulated; I think the least the government could do is show a good use of that vital money before taking it.”
Farmers, landowners and the general public have just two days to respond to the CAP consultation, which closes this Thursday (28 November).
Farm minister George Eustice said: “The UK ensured we have choices in how we implement the Common Agricultural Policy, rather than having to work with a one-size-fits-all approach from the European Commission.
“This gives us the flexibility to target funding in ways that will deliver real benefits to the environment, boost the competitiveness of our farming industry and grow the rural economy.
“It’s vital the new system is designed with the input of the people whose lives it will affect. That’s why it’s so important people give us their views on how we can best achieve this.”