to fight ceiling on
By Mike Stones
AN EU ceiling on CAP support payments would be "perverse nonsense", according to farm minister Jack Cunningham.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, he pledged to fight a uniform EU modulation rate because it would discriminate against the larger, more efficient UK farmers in order to support smaller-scale Continental farms.
But he refused to rule out a policy of national modulation, provided the government set a ceiling.
The next day, however, EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler told the conference that while modulation would be discussed, he favoured giving member states the power to set their own limits.
Dr Cunningham called for radical CAP reform that went far beyond the EU Commissions outline proposals, with the abolition of production quotas. "If we keep our quotas we just surrender market share to competitors in Third countries," he warned.
Avoiding radical reform would also make it difficult to prepare for EU enlargement, he said.
Dan Glickman, US agriculture secretary, told the conference that Europe would lose out in world markets unless it joined America in decoupling farm support from production. He described the US Freedom to Farm Act as a shining example of policy reform.
And he warned that unless EU producers unshackled themselves from government interference and exploited new market opportunities, they would lose those markets to the US, Canada and Argentina.
"I would caution against small timid steps. True market orientation requires us to move boldly towards the elimination of agricultural price supports, production and export subsidies, and all farm income supports linked to production," he said. But Mr Fischler insisted that the commissions CAP reform proposals were sufficient to meet current challenges.
• Mr Fischler told the conference that proposals to lift the beef export ban for certified herds would be presented to EU commissioners on Wednesday.
on Wednesday. The scheme would be restricted to Northern Ireland, because of its computerised cattle movement system.
Farm minister Jack Cunningham promised to resist an EUceiling on CAPsupport but did not rule out national modulation.
NFUpresident Sir David Naish failed to win a green £compensation pledge from the farm minister.