1 November 1996

Rural EUpolicy to be real force in farms future

By Tony McDougal

EUROPEAN Commission moves towards an integrated rural policy will have a more direct bearing on agriculture than measures contained in the governments Rural White Paper.

The point was emphasised by both NFU leader Sir David Naish and farm minister Douglas Hogg, who welcomed EU farm commissioner Franz Fischlers recent statements that an integrated rural/agricultural policy was needed to reform the CAP.

Mr Fischler has emphasised the need to shift away from production support to structural measures, such as improving transport links and maintaining rural employment. He is expected to touch on these and other more controversial issues such as modulated farm support and hectarage-based payments at the expense of headage support at a conference in Cork next week.

Speaking in Whitehall on Friday, Mr Hogg said there was a need for structural reform of the beef sector to cope with the loss in EU-wide consumption, and a greater emphasis on quality assured, fully traceable and welfare- friendly reared stock.

Mr Hogg said BSE had been a tragedy for the industry, though the full economic loss suffered in the rural community will not be known until the beginning of next year.

Junior farm minister Tim Boswell said preliminary results from a review carried out by the Consortium of Rural Training and Enterprise Councils for the Department of Education and Employment had shown that thousands of jobs had been lost in the BSE-crisis. "Its a case of more than three figures and less than six."

Re-training targets

Mr Boswell said the TECs and ATB-Landbase were looking at how EU funding and government local challenge cash could be targeted to help re-train those who had lost their jobs.

Two significant agricultural measures were announced as part of the Rural England 96 initiative. The Forestry Authority and Countryside Commission published a joint consultation document on their plans to double woodland cover, from 7.5%-15% of land, by 2050.

Government also announced a new Farming and Rural Conservation Agency, which will run from next April, covering the agri-environment package, advice on development plans and dairy hygiene regulations.

which are being taken away from ADAS as part of its privatisation.