MEPs on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee are readying themselves for what is set to be one of the longest votes in parliamentary history as they tackle the future of the CAP next Wednesday and Thursday, writes NFU senior CAP adviser Gail Soutar.

Over the course of 2012, MEPs tabled a record-breaking 8,000 amendments to the commission’s controversial CAP proposals. Those amendments have now been whittled down to around 100 compromise amendments, although there are still hundreds of stand-alone amendments on issues where compromises couldn’t be reached, such as capping. The vote – expected to take about nine hours – will be an endurance test for MEPs.

The voting list for the Common Market Organisation, known as the Single CMO, which covers the rules for intervention, private storage aid, sugar quotas, milk management and producer organisations, runs to 112 pages and even the less contentious draft rural development regulation still stands at 109 pages.

The NFU has been working through its permanent office in Brussels to influence the outcome of the vote. A huge part of our focus has been on addressing the unnecessary bureaucracy and costs associated with the commission’s proposals.

While the compromise amendments are not perfect, they do amount to significant improvements compared with the original proposals, by making the greening requirements more practical and workable, addressing concerns with the bureaucratic active farmer test, ensuring greater flexibility around payment entitlements and securing a workable national reserve accessible to new, as well as young, entrants.

However, some elements of the package, particularly relating to the successor to voluntary modulation, increased scope for the re-introduction of coupled support payments and attempts by some member states to hold on indefinitely to the historic payment model, are causing great concern.

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