Farmers are being offered a unique chance to contribute to the debate about the future direction of the CAP.

The environment, food and rural affairs select committee – an influential group of MPs – is appealing for grassroots farmers to get involved with an inquiry into the government’s CAP vision.

The usual procedure for select committees is to ask representatives of relevant industry organisations to give evidence during an inquiry.

But the EFRA committee is so keen to talk to ordinary producers more directly, that for the first time in its history, it is planning to hold a public hearing at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh Park, Warks.

The group hopes that the session, which will take place on 4 July, will be an opportunity for individuals, who may not be linked to any representative organisation, to share their views.

Committee chairman Michel Jack said the group wanted to widen the pool of people sending in evidence from the “usual suspects” and stressed that the public hearing would be relatively informal.

“We are not putting farmers in the dock – we are making sure they have an opportunity to put their evidence across to us. What we really want to do is have a conversation with farmers,” he said.

“We want farmers to tell us what is uppermost in their minds and guide us in writing our report on the future of the CAP.”

The committee’s inquiry centres on the government document, a Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy* which was released in December 2005 by DEFRA and the Treasury.

The tone of the report sparked alarm among the farming community because it called for an end to all agricultural subsidies and protection within 10-15 years. It also dismissed the CAP as “increasingly out of step” with the needs of Europe.

As a starting point, the committee is appealing for farmers, landowners, farmworkers or contractors to send a brief note (a side of A4 at most) setting out their views on the issues raised in a Vision for the CAP.

The committee will sort through all the submissions they receive and invite about ten people to appear in person at the Royal Show to explain their views more clearly.

The committee will take evidence from groups such as the NFU, Country Land and Business Association, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Tenant Farmers Association at a separate hearing in Westminster.

* To read a Vision for the CAP visit www.defra.gov.uk/farm/capreform/vision.htm

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

The first stage is to send a brief note to the committee (a side of A4 is enough) which sets out the kind of issue you would like to raise if invited to the Royal Show, your contact details, background and experience. The deadline for submissions is noon on Monday 5 June.

Submissions can be sent via Farmers Weekly’s website or by writing to Farmers Weekly, EFRA Inquiry, Quadrant House, the Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey, SM5 2AS. FW plans to publish a selection of the comments put forward to help develop the debate.

Alternatively, submissions can be sent direct to the committee at capvision@parliament.uk (please ensure CAPVISION is in the subject box) or CapVision, Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, Committee Office, House of Commons, SW1P 3JA.

The farmers chosen to appear at the Royal Show will be contacted in the week commencing 19 June.

WHAT SHOULD YOUR SUBMISSION COVER?

The government’s vision document recommended phasing out all direct payments and market support for farming by 2020. The committee is interested in the likely impact of these proposals on:

Food security – does the government remain committed to UK food production?
Potential distortions and inequality of treatment of farmers across the EU.
Possible environmental consequences of the proposals.
The international implications of reform.