Farmers and their representatives should “lead from the front” in reshaping the CAP for the post-2013 era, rather than waiting for others to impose their cost-cutting agendas on them, EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told a farming and food industry audience at Stormont in Belfast on Thursday (3 May).

The review of the EU budget, due to be held in 2009, would provide an opportunity to reassess the future of direct farm payments. Mrs Fischer Boel said she believed these would still have a valuable role to play, but they may be in a different form and at a different level.

She suggested that partial-decoupling should come to an end for the whole of Europe post-2013, while traditional market management tools, such as intervention and quotas, would also come under the microscope.

Ahead of the budget review, the commission would be launching its “health check”, to see how the CAP was functioning since the implementation of the 2003 Fischler reforms. In particular, this would provide an opportunity to simplify the CAP, for example by abolishing set-aside and set-aside entitlements.

“We will look at the strong case for raising the level of compulsory modulation, to help make sure that our rural policy meets our expectations,” she added. “I don’t think that voluntary modulation is up to the job.”

Mrs Fischer Boel also spoke of the need to make cross-compliance more “user-friendly”, without watering down the priciples of the system. “We cannot end up with a Coke-Lite version of cross-compliance. This would put at risk the hard-won support of the public for direct payments to farmers.”

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Mariann Fischer Boel meets NI agriculture minister designate Michelle Gildernew and UFU president Kenneth Sharkey at the Lagan Valley Island Centre, Lisburn.

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Mariann addresses 400 farmers at the Lisburn meeting

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Mariann Fischer Boel sits down to breakfast at a dairy farm in Newtownards, Co Down.

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Mariann Fischer Boel enjoys the fresh air with Kenneth Sharkey and host farmer John Rankin (above and below)

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Mariann and Michelle meet again, this time at Stormont (above)

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Doing the political rounds, Mariann meets industry representatives at Stormont (above and below)

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