Plans which would see swathes of British farmland reclassified as part of Less Favoured Area remapping, should be delayed until the future of the Common Agricultural Policy is decided, MEPs have said.
Members of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee said remapping LFAs was too sensitive to be done as part of the CAP reform package.
During a private meeting at the European Parliament last week, COMAGRI members urged European Commission officials to handle the issue of LFA mapping separately and take it out of reform discussions.
The issue risks becoming a sticking point in the CAP reform process as few member states have agreed to share detailed maps of areas that would be eligible for support.
Under rules laid out in the CAP reform plans, current LFAs will be reclassified so they encompass larger areas with greater populations.
In those areas, 66% of land would have to meet credentials around issues such as poor soil drainage and steep slopes before it would meet LFA status.
Socio-economic factors such as the number of schools, shops and post offices could also be included.
The rules mean some areas of farmland currently designated as LFAs in countries such as Wales and Germany would lose its support status.
Conversely, areas of Scotland and France would gain land classified as LFAs.
Sian Davies, NFU Brussels assistant director, said LFA remapping risked being pushed through alongside CAP reform without people realising the impact it could have.
“The LFA remapping is one of the most controversial areas in Pillar 2 but it is being overshadowed by greening,” she said.
The NFU and DEFRA had called on the commission to allow the UK to classify LFAs in smaller parishes rather than in population zones in a bid to reduce the impact on British farmers, she added.
“If the UK was reclassified under the proposed larger, populated zones, areas of Wales which are currently LFAs and in need of support could lose their status.
“The higher-populated Malverns would fall in the Welsh Borders, stripping those areas of support.
“On the other hand Scotland would gain lots of LFAs, particularly around Fife which is actually good farming land but will meet the socio-economic criteria.
“And while member states will be able to fine-tune 10% of land designated as LFAs, countries will only have the same budgets which they will have to spread across greater areas.”
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