EU farm ministers agree new reform

FVP authorisations for English fruit, vegetable and potato growers claiming single farm payments will soon be a thing of the past following agreement by EU farm ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (12 June) to reform the whole sector.
Among the key aims of the reform was to extend the priciple of decoupling and to integrate the fruit and vegetable sector into the Single Payment Scheme from 2008.
In England, where area payments are already made to the horticultural sector through FVP authorisations, the new policy will lead to a simplifcation in the claims process.
But in Wales and Scotland, where SFP is based on historic receipts and a “negative list” applies to prevent fruit and vegetable producers claiming subsidy, new entitlements will have to be established from the national reserve.
Elsewhere in Europe, most support to the sector is in the form of processing aids paid to Producer Organistaions. This aid will become decoupled from production over a five-year transition period. A “crisis management” programme was also agreed, with 50% Brussels funding for things like non-harvesting, promotion and crop insurance.
EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said the reform would make the sector more competitive and market oriented.
A senior government official said the outcome was good for the UK, especially in that it provided plenty of flexibility. “For England, we want to act quickly to simplify the system. But for Wales and Scotland we want to move more slowly to ensure we get it right,” he said. “This enables us to do just that.”
In a busy two-day schedule, EU farm ministers also agreed to phase out maize intervention over the next three years and signed off a new regulation on organic food production and labelling.Controversially, this allows for up to 0.9% contamination with GMOs before organic food loses its status.

The agriculture council also agreed new cross-compliance rules aimed at simplifying the system and making it less onerous.
In future, minor infringements, such as a missing ear tag, should not trigger a cut in SFP, though a warning letter should still be sent. Any fines of less than €100 (£68) should also be waived.
Ministers agreed that only 1% of farms should be subject to spot checks and these checks could apply to just half the farm, not the whole unit. Farmers should be given 14 days notice of inspections, except in relation to feed law, animal welfare and animal ID.
NFU president Peter Kendal said he was “encouraged” by the council’s conclusions. “We’ve finally had the political steer,” he said. “Now it’s time for action to make sure the changes are implemented on the ground.”