EU farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel is due to present her formal legal proposals for the health check of the CAP in Strasbourg later today (Tuesday).
Brussels sources suggest that little has changed since leaked drafts emerged in late February. The two main issues for British farmers remain the levels of modulation and the changes to the so-called Article 69 provision.
According to the drafts, compulsory EU modulation would increase from the current 5% off single farm payments to 13% by 2013 – a rise of 2% a year. But there would also be “progressive” modulation, so that those farmers getting between €100,000 and €200,000 in SFP would lose another 3%, those getting between €200,000 and €300,000 another 6%, and those over €300,000 another 9%.
This money would stay within the member state and be used for rural development measures, boosting that budget by €2bn EU-wide. The EU Commission is also adamant that any increase in EU modulation is offset by a corresponding cut in national voluntary modulation in the UK.
Under Article 69 – now renamed as Article 68 – member states are allowed to skim off up to 10% off direct payments to target at specific sectors. Currently those funds should stay within that sector, for example beef or sheep.
But the EU Commission is planning to increase the number of options for spending that money, including crop insurance programmes and creating a fund for animal disease outbreaks.
Other elements of the health check are expected to include a 1%-a-year increase in milk quotas to prepare for when they go altogether in 2015, the permanent removal of set-aside, and the phasing out of coupled supports, with the exception of suckler cow payments and ewe premiums in those countries that use them.
EU agriculture ministers will debate the proposals for the first time at their informal council meeting in Slovenia on 27 May. Final agreement on the whole package is planned for November under the French presidency of the EU.
* More details and reaction to come this afternoon.