10 July 1998

Grab chance for rural support

PICK and mix rural support programmes included in the CAP reform Agenda 2000 proposals must be grabbed by the UK government or a chance to kick-start the beleaguered rural economy may be lost, warns ADAS.

The proposals shifted support from production-based mechanisms to rural development, said the organisations James Webb. But while draft regulations offer the chance to target a wide range of activities, support will only be part-funded by the EU. The rest will be financed by member states, though the level of support still has to be decided.

Due to budgetary constraints, it was unlikely that any one country would adopt them all. But the government had to choose those that would provide sustainable development to help rural businesses adapt and thrive to the changes which lay ahead, said Mr Webb. Recent consultations suggested countryside/environment management, organic aid, and early retirement were top of the government list.

"Whatever choices are made, it is essential that policies are flexible, deliverable and target those in real need while allowing efficient businesses to remain competitive." &#42