Curry explains EU budget deal fear

Government adviser Donald Curry has told Prime Minister Tony Blair that he fears the EU budget deal will leave England’s farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

It has emerged that Sir Donald met Mr Blair two weeks ago to discuss his concerns over the finance deal struck in Brussels in December 2005.

Sir Donald pointed out that the deal allows member states to apply voluntary modulation of up to 20% to single farm payments (Pillar 1 spending) as a means of shifting money towards rural development (Pillar 2 spending).

But money modulated in this way does not have to be match-funded, an option which many fear will be taken up by the UK, but not other EU countries.

Sir Donald is now seeking an urgent meeting with Chancellor Gordon Brown to reinforce his point.

“I am really concerned about the implications of the finance deal for the sustainable food and farming strategy,” Sir Donald told Farmers Weekly.

“The whole vision will take so much longer to deliver if funding is cut.

“I think that it is so important to persuade the government that match-funding must continue if voluntary modulation is increased.

If we have to go to 20% modulation, at a time when farming is up against the wall, then it would be a real kick in the teeth.

It will place English farmers at a competitive disadvantage if the government doesn’t remain committed to match-funding.”

Sir Donald said he had a sympathetic response from the Prime Minister and has since written to him to clarify his views.

A copy of this letter has been sent to Mr Brown.

Meanwhile, NFU president Tim Bennett visited Austria this week to express the NFU’s concern about the EU budget to the Austrian agriculture minister Joseph Proll. Austria holds the

EU presidency, so Mr Proll is chairman of the EU agriculture and environment councils.

During his visit, Mr Bennett also met Mariann Fischer Boel, EU farm commissioner, to discuss match-funding.

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