Euro-MPs on the European parliament’s agriculture committee have voted for a substantial watering down of the EU Commission’s “health check” of the CAP, looking to soften the impact on farmers.

In particular, they are demanding smaller annual increases in EU milk quota, less aggressive rates of modulation and a continuation of partially coupled supports for livestock farmers.

The vote was taken on Tuesday (7 October) after the committee had considered over 1000 amendments to the commission’s proposals, “reflecting the diversity in the situations facing farmers in the EU”.

On milk quotas, the MEPs called for increases of just 1% next year and 1% the year after, followed by a review in 2010.

This compares with agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel’s proposal for a 1% increase for each of the next five years, leading to the abolition of milk quotas in April 2015.

The MEPs more cautious approach to phasing out milk quotas reflects concerns among some about the effects of falling global dairy prices on farm incomes.

Modulation was another hotly debated subject, with widespread concern that the commission’s plan to take more money from farmers’ single farm payments and move it into rural development programmes go to far.

Under the commission’s proposal, the basic rate of EU modulation would rise from 5% now to 13% in 2012.

On top of this, farmers receiving over €100,000/year would lose another 3%, over €200,000 another 6% and over €300,000 another 9%. The largest farmers would therefore be losing 22%.

But MEPs want this trimmed, so that the basic rate reaches just 7% by 2013. Larger farmers should then only face an extra 1% extra modulation above €100,000, 2% above €200,000 and 3% above €300,000 – giving a maximum cut of 10%.

The committee also wants to see the retention of intervention buying for grain, meat and dairy products, and the maintenance of the slaughter premium for male cattle and calves.

This contrasts with the commission’s aim to restrict intervention to a tendering system and to phase out slaughter premium altogether.

The agriculture committee’s report will be voted on by the full European parliament on 19 November – the same day as the agriculture council votes on it.

But, while French agriculture president Michel Barnier has said he will pay close attention to the parliament’s views, ultimately it is the agriculture council that will decide on the outcome of the health check.