An influential group of MPs has published a report calling for the common agricultural policy to be scrapped.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee claim that the objectives of the CAP have remained unchanged for the last 50 years and are now an anachronism
The EFRA committee report examines the Labour government’s 2005 Vision document, as prepared by the then DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.
Their document called for an end to farm subsidies, except in return for the provision of “societal benefits” such as landscape management and high animal welfare standards. And it sought an end to price support and export subsidies, to deliver a “considerable reduction in total spending by the EU on agriculture”.
But the EFRA committee, which has been studying the Vision document for over a year, has described it as a “lost opportunity” and “nothing more than an evolution of existing policy, primarily motivated by budget savings”.
It believes that the CAP should be scrapped altogether and replaced with a new rural policy for Europe which addresses environmental protection, climate change and wider rural issues.
But NFU president Peter Kendall said these aspirations were both disappointing and naive. “This is a time when food, energy and environmental security is more important than ever,” he said. “The CAP must certainly evolve in future, but it is essential that these are not jeopardised in a scramble to scrap the CAP.”
The NFU was also disappointed that no mention is made in the EFRA committee report of the need to maintain fair competition, or of the need to ensure the food chain is working properly. “While the NFU accepts that there will be a growing emphasis on rural development, it is important not to leap to judgement before a proper assessment of current policies is complete.”
But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds welcomed the report, saying it should be the catalyst for a complete overhaul of a failing farm support system.
“The CAP is no longer working for our countryside,” said head of countryside policy Sue Armstrong Brown. “It should be replaced with a new rural policy that brings agriculture into the 21st century.”
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