Agenda 2000 fails four crucial criteria
By Philip Clarke
URGENT changes are needed to Agenda 2000 if the EU Commission is to avoid the mistakes of the last common agricultural policy reforms.
Speaking to German farmers in Hannover this week, NFU president Ben Gill said the plans should be judged against four criteria – improving efficiency, reducing bureaucracy, treating farmers equally and enhancing profitability.
On all four counts, the current proposals scored zero.
"If anything, they will make farmers even more intent on chasing premiums rather than markets," he said in reference to plans to introduce a wider range of livestock subsidies. And putting 30% of the budget into so-called "national envelopes" for individual governments to allocate was a step backwards, both in terms of simplifying the system and ensuring equality.
Mr Gill had special sympathy for German complaints about the effects of the reforms on the intensive beef sector, since his own farming business in Yorks included indoor finishing.
While accepting that some support price cuts were essential "to keep us in touch with white meats", there should be full compensation, paid to all producers across all animals, Mr Gill said.
Perpetuating the current system would fail in this respect. Four groups of farmers would lose out – those finishing over 90 head of male cattle, those who fell foul of stocking rate limits, those fattening heifers and those slaughtering animals less than eight months old.
It was "totally unacceptable" that they should face price cuts without compensation. As such, he advocated abolition of the beef special premium, along with the national envelopes, to be replaced with a new slaughter premium paid on all beef animals.
He also recommended extra money for suckler cow premium. *