20 October 1995

Hogg wants CAPreform soon

FARM minister, Douglas Hogg, wants the EU to start reforming the CAP at next years price fixing.

He put his plan for substantial price cuts without compensation to EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler in Brussels this week. But Mr Fischler warned it was not "politically saleable" to have more cuts in next years price proposals.

Mr Hogg was back in London on Tuesday for the launch of the governments "Rural England" White Paper. The document envisages a reformed CAP as the main source of paying farmers to conserve the countryside.

As the first step, Mr Hogg confirmed that the government wanted to expand the countryside stewardship scheme throughout the country (News, Oct 13). No new money has yet been earmarked for expanding the scheme but "high priority" will be given to providing extra funds.

The minister repeated his view that the CAP should be switched from production support to direct payments to farmers for "transparent" environmental objectives.

Reform would have to be gradual over several years, if possible before further enlargement of the EU early in the next century.

He said he wanted reform to start next year but added that he was far from sure other EU farm ministers shared his view.

As well as expanding the stewardship scheme the government wants to integrate it with other conservation schemes. A joint MAFF/DoE steering group will be formed with the countryside agencies and a new national forum is promised to help monitor conservation.