8 September 1995

ARG sets sights on a big payout of European cash

By Liz Mason

THE Agricultural Reform Group, which boasts a high profile membership of leading farmers and environmentalists, has launched a bid for "tens of thousands" of £ of European money.

The bid for funds follows a call from the EU Commissions environment directorate for proposals from non-government organisations to increase environmental education and awareness.

Hugh Raven, ARG spokesman, said the funding had not yet been confirmed but informal indications suggested the groups bid would be successful. It would then have to seek balancing or co-funding in the UK. The group, whose membership includes high profile Cambridgeshire farmer Oliver Walston, is also understood to have support from HRH The Prince of Wales private secretary.

Mr Raven said he could see no irony in the fact that a group including Mr Walston, who had recently drawn attention to the large sums paid under the CAP to arable farmers, had itself applied for Brussels cash. Mr Walston was unavailable for comment.

The group has not yet published or released any details of its meetings and has never made a public statement. It held a closed seminar in March to which leading farming, environment and consumer representatives were invited to discuss policy.

Mr Raven said if the groups bid for funds was successful it would seek to employ a co-ordinator and hold a conference. He said the ARG had reached a consensus that the CAP needed to be reformed. The general thrust was that funds should be targeted at agri-environmental and other rural development measures rather than through direct agricultural aid.

The group would be discussing its future policy and the need for a more formal structure at a meeting later this month. &#42