18 September 1998

Agenda 2000 beef hinders CAP reform

PROGRESS towards reforming the CAP slowed to a snails pace in Brussels this week, after detailed discussions on the Agenda 2000 beef proposals.

The councils special committee on agriculture is preparing a report on the fine details of the reform, to go to farm ministers in October.

But after six hours of debate on Monday there was still a clear rift between member states with extensive beef systems and those with intensive systems.

Agenda 2000 calls for a 30% cut in support prices, increased livestock headage and extensification payments, and the introduction of "national envelopes".

But intensive producers believe the 1992 CAP reforms worked against them through the introduction of beef quotas, and Agenda 2000 takes this discrimination further.

Led by Germany, they are seeking more national control over how compensation is paid. Other member states, (Spain, Portugal and the Nordic countries), want additional beef quota, while the Netherlands and France are arguing for a specific veal calf premium. "There was some progress on secondary issues, such as the inclusion of silage land when calculating stocking rates," said a UK official. "But on the big issues there are more battles to come."

The stakes have also been raised in the dairy sector, after publication of a new report by the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Italy.

Whereas the EU Commission is seeking a 15% support price cut, a 2% milk quota rise and a 145ecu (£98) a head dairy cow premium by 2003, these four countries are looking to double those amounts. They also want a commitment to end milk quotas in 2006. Anything less would leave the EU dairy sector at a competitive disadvantage in the world market, they argue.

While the demands are unlikely to succeed, these countries do have enough weight in the council to form a "blocking minority", giving them considerable influence on the way dairy reform eventually goes.

The paper will be discussed by ministers at the end of the month. &#42