28 April 1995

CLA- switch to rural policy

THEEU should switch to a common rural policy instead of an agricultural one, says the Country Landowners Association.

Its report European Rural Policy suggested phasing out set-aside and production controls and shifting farm support towards environmental and socio-economic objectives.

Launching the report in Brussels, the CLAs chief policy adviser, Tony Bailey said: "The latest CAP reforms are fatally flawed. The production controls introduced by the reforms encourage inefficient farmers, hold back the efficient ones and increase the overall costs to the industry."

Mr Bailey added that farm support should be frozen at current levels and decoupled payments introduced to meet environmental objectives, based on "land stewardship and a less regulatory environmental policy".

The report stressed the need to maintain regional social aid. Small and medium-sized enterprises should be encouraged to create new jobs in rural areas, using the EU structural funds. Crops for industrial uses should also be developed.

CLA deputy president, Ewen Cameron said more emphasis on environmental management would not reduce farmers competitiveness because it involved conserving and managing the countryside, not substantially cutting pesticide use.

EC officials said the effects of eastern European countries joining the EU should be studied before drawing up new strategies. &#42

Amanda Cheesley