29 May 1998

Farm ministers conclude radical CAP reform is vital for future

EUROPES farm ministers, meeting in Brussels this week, have agreed to radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

After an intensive initial examination of the EU Commissions Agenda 2000 package, the ministers concluded that CAP reform was vital both to enable EU enlargement and to secure a successful outcome in forthcoming world trade talks.

The agreement on the need for change, which now opens the way for formal negotiations on the reforms, was welcomed by UK farm minister Jack Cunningham as "good news for farmers, consumers and the environment".

He said: "The Council agreed the need for CAP reform, not just to give farmers a clear direction but also to prepare for EU enlargement and the forthcoming negotiations in the World Trade Organisation.

"They agreed the reforms must promote versatile, sustainable and competitive agriculture, while also providing for regions with specific problems and the development of the rural economy."

The first concrete progress is expected at next months ministers meeting in Luxembourg, when the extent of price support cuts and the time period for reform will be discussed.

The UK government will press for all production-linked support to be phased out gradually, and will also argue for the abolition of milk quota by 2006.

Favouring the idea of national envelopes to give member states some freedom to decide how best to compensate farmers for price cuts, UK ministers also advocate a move to greener, less intensive farming methods and the development of rural economic activities which complement farming. &#42