The government has limited room for manoeuvre when it comes to implementing CAP reform in a way that works for growers and livestock producers, farm minister George Eustice has warned.
Mr Eustice was speaking as DEFRA prepares to ask farmers for their views on how CAP reform should be implemented across England. The consultation is due to be released within the week, with a reformed CAP expected from 2015.
Industry leaders fear English farmers could be disadvantaged by a series of proposals – including environmental “greening” requirements, diversification rules and widely expected plans to switch 15% of direct payment money to fund rural development measures.
DEFRA is considering a certification scheme to implement greening, which could include exemptions for farmers already undertaking environmental measures. But Mr Eustice suggested the scheme might not be as flexible as some farmers would like.
He said: “We have the opportunity, if we want, to put forward proposals for greening measures other than those set out in the final [CAP agreement] but I have to say it is quite limited in scope in what we would be able to get the EU to accept.”
The NFU also wants DEFRA to let farmers choose alternative measures – such as extended ecological focus areas – rather than implementing diversification rules requiring most arable farmers to grow at least three crops.
Mr Eustice acknowledged that greening was a contentious issue. DEFRA was open to ideas, he said, but it would be difficult to get the commission to accept the idea of farmers “cross-pollinating” one greening measure for another.
Crop diversification was “quite a blunt measure,” Mr Eustice told an agri-environment summit in London on Wednesday (16 October). “But it gets difficult to come up with something that the industry considers is less onerous than what is already on the table.”