Time is running out for farmers to have their say on the government’s CAP reform consultation, which will shape the future of farm subsidy payments in England during the next seven years.
In the past few weeks, green groups including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Wildlife Trusts have been calling for more direct CAP funding to support wildlife initiatives.
For instance, the RSPB has been pushing its members to lobby the government to impose a 15% transfer of funds from Pillar 1 direct payments to Pillar 2 rural development schemes.
With less than three weeks to respond to the consultation, the NFU urged farmers to make sure their views are heard by attending a series of regional DEFRA workshops, beginning on 11 November, as well as responding to the consultation online.
“Farmers can’t afford to sit back and ignore it – this is desperately important,” said Robin Milton, NFU hill and upland hill farming group chairman.
“DEFRA has to have something in place to submit to the EU early in January. The timescale to put something together is fairly short.
“Farmers must try to attend these workshops to make sure their voices are heard.”
Those who are unable to attend should contact their local NFU, or email firstname.lastname@example.org by 25 November.
In its consultation, the government says there is a strong case for voluntarily transferring the maximum 15% of funds from direct payments into the rural development pot.
But NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said farmers remained “very concerned” about the plans.
The move would hamper agricultural investment and place English farmers at a “significant disadvantage” to their EU neighbours, at a time of recent variable weather and a 32% annual fall in farm incomes, he said.
“We have a free-market, right-wing government that believes in the individual making decisions, but now they are planning to take 15% off us and then a bureaucrat is going to decide how that money is going to be spent,” he added.
“Most farmers are good businessmen who are passionate about their farms and determined to reduce their carbon footprint so they pass them on in a good state. With all the bureaucracy and cost, surely it’s better to allow the farmer to spend money how he sees fit?”
The NFU is urging the government to modulate at 9% initially, rather than 15%, which it says would still leave enough money to fund agri-environment schemes.
Mr Raymond said “greening” measures, including the three-crop rule and the definition of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) were also worrying farmers.
“If they start demanding 4-5% of top quality agricultural land is taken out of production, that’s going to affect our ability to grow food going forward.”
Responses to the consultation can be made:
- Online – consult.defra.gov.uk/communications/cap-consultation
- Email – email@example.com
- Post – CAP Consultation, Area 1D, DEFRA, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.
See our dedicated page on CAP reform