15 May 1998

Attack on EU attempts atCAP reform backed by government

By Boyd Champness

AN all-party report attacking the European Commissions attempts to reform the CAP as half-hearted has been endorsed by the government.

Responding to the Commons agricultural committees second report, the government agreed with almost every point put forward by the committee. It agreed that the reforms would do little to appease the World Trade

Organisation at next years farm trade talks, and that they failed to address the overwhelming issue of EU enlargement.

There was also disappointment that direct compensatory payments – enhanced to offset cuts in support prices – will not be completely decoupled from production. The government also agreed that the proposed reforms to the dairy sector were "timid" and expressed regret that the sugar and sheepmeat regimes escaped the Agenda 2000 package.

It was also agreed that the CAP reforms should be costing taxpayers less, not more, and that the environment and consumers were almost ignored in the document.

The committees report, tabled earlier this year, chastised the EC for making the reforms too weak, thus preventing Europe from "sharing the moral high ground with the USA and the Cairns Group countries" at the next WTO round.

The committees report said: "Though the Commission does have a vision for transforming the CAP into a more integrated rural policy, they appear to have judged that the Agriculture Council would not share or accept that vision at this stage of the reform process."

"A more positive lead from the commission would have forced the Agriculture Council to confront these issues directly, and it is regrettable that the commission has not felt able or willing to provide such a lead in Agenda 2000." &#42