14 November 1997

Backlash over CAPreforms

A STRONG tide of opinion is rising against the EU Commissions plans under Agenda 2000 for radical CAP reform, according to Germanys junior farm minister Wolfgang Grobl.

Condemning the proposals as "unrealistic and unworkable", Mr Grobl told the Press at this weeks Agritechnica machinery event in Hannover that: "Most of the member states either reject Agenda 2000 or criticise it strongly.

"It should not be the function of European farm policy to place farmers in a position where they are paid less than they were in the past. The question now is whether or not we can produce a positive reform paper," he said.

Modulation, or capping of aid payments, was unacceptable because it could greatly distort the structure of EU agriculture. Limiting payments to smaller farms was unfair and could lead to farmers dividing up their holdings.

But, he added, it was not inconceivable that there should be a system of tiered support, which would take into account the economies of scale found on larger farms.

Implementing Agenda 2000 would increase the cost of the CAP by about £2.9bn, he said. Germany was already contributing more than £3bn, and that figure would increase by £275m if the commissions proposals were adopted.

That was just not acceptable, Mr Grobl insisted.

He also disputed the commissions prediction of a large grain surplus following EU eastward expansion. Germany accepted the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation forecasts which pointed to increasing world demand. And, against the background of economic development in Asia, that demand would be paid for, said Mr Grobl.