3 October 2000
Brown – rural plan pushes CAP reform

By Alistair Driver

FARM minister Nick Brown has pledged to use the 1.6 billion rural spending programme he launched on Tuesday (03 October) to push forward reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Brown said the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP), which outlines spending plans for agri-environment schemes and rural business schemes, is of “enormous importance”.

“It is a major step towards switching farm spending from production support to schemes which boost the broader rural economy, advance environmentally beneficial farming practices and help modernise and restructure the economy,” he said.

Over one-third of the money to be spent on the seven-year programme between 2000-2006 will come from re-directing farm production subsidies into the various ERDP schemes.

Speaking at Ministry of Agriculture headquarters in London, Mr Brown said rural development programmes, which are being implemented in all member states, are the second pillar of the CAP.

“We are going to monitor the progress of the plan in England and use it as a powerful argument for reform of CAP,” he said.

He said he is one of five EU farm ministers – the others being the Italian, Danish, Swedish and Dutch ministers – who want to push CAP reform much further.

“We hope the second pillar of CAP will eventually dwarf the first,” he said.

Mr Brown first revealed the broad outline of the ERDP last December and announced on Tuesday that the details have now been approved by the commission.

Two-thirds of the ERDP funds will be spent on existing agri-environment schemes.

More than 1bn will be spent on Countryside Stewardship, the governments flagship agri-environment scheme, the Organic Farming scheme – both of which will receive 60% funding increases – and the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme.

There will be extra money for two schemes to create and protect woodland, along with 239m for the Hill Farm Allowance Scheme.

This will replace the Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance.

The programme also features the first-ever grant scheme to encourage farmers to grow energy crops, miscanthus and short-rotation coppice.

There will be nearly 200m available to assist rural businesses, including 44m to encourage innovation and improve marketing of rural produce.

Another 22m has been allocated to help train the rural workforce.