Major cuts to single payments and rural development spending threaten to leave UK farmers at a disadvantage, the NFU has warned.
Leaked CAP reform documents suggest the UK’s share of Pillar 1 payments will be reduced by 10% in real terms over the next seven years – close to the European average. But the UK’s Pillar 2 allocation – already the lowest in Europe – appears to have been cut by 22%.
Farm leaders fear DEFRA will use new rules to transfer 15% of direct payments into the rural development pot – leaving farmers here at a disadvantage compared to those in countries such as France, which is expected to transfer money in the opposite direction.
Speaking at an NFU Council meeting on Tuesday (23 April), NFU president Peter Kendall said: “The amount of money transferred from the single farm payment to rural development measures must be kept to an absolute minimum, based on the funds available.”
“The NFU has always taken the view that it is unrealistic to expect the CAP to be exempt from cuts when budgets are being slashed across the EU. The important thing is that English and Welsh farmers are treated equally with their main competitors in Europe.”
Allocations to each country from the EU budget have not yet been officially confirmed, but NFU CAP adviser Gail Soutar said the estimates were based on well-founded reports. The NFU is calling for a fundamental review of rural development programmes.
Mr Kendall said: “The NFU Council has stressed today that it would be intolerable if the government, having acquiesced in the largest Pillar 2 cut in Europe, sought to mitigate it by transferring money out from the single farm payment.
“The effect of the appalling weather in the last months has, yet again, underlined the importance of the single farm payment for many farmers,” said Mr Kendall.