28 July 1995

Report damned by faint praise

FARMING organisations damned the CAP reform proposals with faint praise.

The NFU described the report as "an interesting contribution" to the debate. But the union said it was disappointed it presented no clear picture of the policies needed to replace the current CAP.

The environmental enhancement schemes called for by the group could not be a substitute for farm support, the NFU warned. "Such schemes are valuable opportunities for many farmers but they all too easily offer a route for some member states to provide hidden subsidies to their producers," said president Sir David Naish.

Hugh Duberly, Country Landowners Association president, also warned about the danger of member states being allowed to introduce market-distorting national aids.

He welcomed the think tanks recognition of the need for a significant switch to environmental land management. But the CLA was disappointed there was almost no mention of the need for wider economic activity to create more non-farming jobs in the countryside.

Political opponents were even more critical. Shadow farm minister Dr Gavin Strang said the report was a "deathbed repentance" from a government which had presided over a 43% rise in CAP spending since 1979 to a staggering £33bn this year.

LibDem farm spokesman Paul Tyler said the suggested reforms would be credible only if backed by a cross-party consensus. His party had warned former farm minister John Gummer at the time of the last CAP reforms that the UK governments perverse obsession with set-aside would be its undoing.