CRITICISM of the recently released policy commission plan to increase the rate of modulation is unfair, reckons one farm business consultant.
Francis Mordaunt, head of business research at Andersons, says: "We are not necessarily advocating increased modulation, but it seems unhelpful to dismiss it with a knee-jerk reaction. A basic requirement for an educated discussion is for people to know the facts."
Under the proposal, advocated by commission chairman Donald Curry, the proportion of IACS money diverted into agri-environmental schemes (currently 3%) could be increased to 20% by 2007/08. This would then be match-funded with cash from the UK Treasury.
The plan received a lukewarm reception by farming organisations, including the NFU, which believe schemes such as Countryside Stewardship soak up far too much of their funding as administration costs. But this would not be the case under Sir Donalds proposals, according to Mr Mordaunt.
"Modulated money is ring-fenced. It must be used to pay grants under the rural development programme and cannot be used to administer the schemes. It is just not true that most of the money wont go to farmers."
He does, however, concede that certain schemes are expensive to run although says this appears to have been recognised by the Curry report. "As I understand it the recommendations are conditional on the whole system changing." *