The refusal of agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos to respond to concerns over CAP greening proposals is creating frustration among farm ministers across Europe, Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead has said.
Mr Lochhead said his fellow agriculture ministers were now adamant that Mr Ciolos should switch from listening to responding mode after three council meetings at which the main theme discussed has been the flaws in the greening proposals.
Speaking at NFU Scotland’s international Greening Summit in Edinburgh on 1 May, Mr Lochhead described the current proposals as “a kind of legislative quicksand that threatens to swamp us all”.
He added: “Everyone I speak to thinks the commission’s proposals are far from perfect and don’t come up to scratch and I really can’t see them staying on the table much longer. When the commissioner is sitting facing an alliance of virtually every member state expressing the same concerns, he has an obligation to take that on board. Surely at some point he will respond with some changes but the longer we wait the longer it will take to get the new CAP in place. “
Making a clear distinction between the Scottish and UK Government’s positions, Mr Lochhead was adamant that greening should be done under Pillar I funding.
“Just as we have to resist the commission’s current proposals for greening Pillar 1, so we also have to guard against any government that thinks that Pillar 1 is too difficult to green so we should cut its budget and just stick to Pillar 2,” he said.
“Whether it’s transferring funds between Pillars or giving exemptions for agri-environment schemes, everything in DEFRA’s approach betrays their fundamental view that the future CAP shouldn’t have a first Pillar at all. Fortunately, on this issue, the UK is a minority view in Europe.”
Mr Lochhead and other devolved administrations are due to meet DEFRA ministers on 2 May to discuss how they can work together to get the best deal on CAP reform.
Speaking ahead of that meeting DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman said: “I value regular and candid dialogue between ourselves in reaching agreement on what particularly matters in different parts of the UK, but then we must speak in Europe with one voice. That’s what gives us real strength in our European negotiations and the best chance of an outcome that works for all of us.”