CAP delivery on time, says de Castro

Common Agricultural Policy reform will be delivered on time despite the 7,000 amendments recently lodged by MEPs to the European Commission’s original proposals drawn up last autumn.

That’s the view of Paolo De Castro, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in the European Parliament.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly ahead of the Labour Party’s CAP reform event held at the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr De Castro admitted time was tight.

But there was “very strong” agreement within the committee on how to progress, he added. That agreement is likely to have a big influence on parliament, which now has an equal say with the EU council on CAP reform proposals becoming law.

“We have a very, very tough agenda because we want to conclude the negotiations by the end of 2012 to be ready for the vote at the beginning of the next year. Otherwise the reform cannot apply from January 2014.”

Parliament had three key CAP goals: to reduce bureaucracy, increase flexibility for member states to account for Europe’s widely differing agriculture and more market measures to help farmers manage price volatility.

“We need to increase agricultural potential to meet the incredible increase in demand for food,” Mr De Castro said. “Europe needs to do more.”

Greening was the key sticking point, he said. “Parliament is in favour of greening, but we want simple greening. We are really worried about how we can apply it without increasing bureaucracy for farmers and the cost and administrative burden for member states.”

He described the EC’s proposal to make farmers place 7% of their land under ecological focus areas (EFAs) to qualify for full payments as “interesting”. They risked reducing Europe’s agricultural potential and affecting food security.

There was a need to end confusion specifically in the UK over such Pillar 1 greening measures and how they would affect agri-environment measures in the second pillar (for example, ELS). “The risk is you can damage a country that already has a lot of initiatives. We need to find a way so that farmers applications increase, not reduce.”

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