Rules governing farmers must become fairer and less complicated if European agriculture is to become more competitive in the face of growing market pressure, MEPs have warned.

In a debate on plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013, politicians on the EU’s Agriculture Committee said the proposals risked creating a “huge bureaucratic monster” which could hider farmers’ productivity.

Speaking to farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos on Monday (24 October), MEPs criticised proposals to cap payments to farmers receiving more than €150,000.

They also said plans for the so-called “greening” of direct support payments – which would see 7% of farmland set aside for environmental measures – did little to simplify the policy.

“Linking direct payments to environmental farming practices is absolutely essential, but we have to think about farmers’ ability to implement them,” German MEP Ulrike Rodust said.

Austrian MEP Elisabeth Köstinger said setting aside 7% of arable land was “contrary to current need for a secure and steady supply of food to EU citizens,” while Spain’s Iratxe García Pérez said the proposals did not recognise different situations in different member states.

Other MEP’s claimed the plans did little to make CAP support fairer across the 27 member states, while the council warned that shifting the current support scheme to a basic area payment could cause complications for farmers.

Calling for a decision on the EU’s national budgets to be decided as soon as possible, the council said it would only take decisions on the reform package once it had received more money on how it would be funded.

It was preparing for a public debate of the future CAP on 2 Novermber, it added. The NFU said it agreed with the council’s assessment of the CAP proposals being too complicated, confused and anti-competitive.

“There has been widespread criticism of the CAP reform proposals since Dacian Ciolos¸ presented them a fortnight ago,” a spokesman from the union’s Brussels office said.

“But it is important to remember that the baton has now been passed to MEPs and Member State agriculture ministers to knock the proposals into shape.

“MEPs have been among the most vocal detractors of the proposals and last night’s meeting confirmed that with a long list of questions that remain unanswered.

“We will now work closely with the European Parliament to develop an improved CAP which can help farmers be both competitive and sustainable.”