NFU president Peter Kendall has warned DEFRA ministers against “ideology-driven ambitions” that threaten to leave English farmers disadvantaged by CAP reform.
Speaking at an NFU fringe event, Mr Kendall outlined his concerns to DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson and junior DEFRA minister Richard Benyon in front of an audience that included Tory activists and farmers.
Farmers were looking for the government to put in place the right framework to increase domestic production sustainably, said Mr Kendall. But DEFRA was instead continuing to call for more support to be switched towards environmental measures.
Unjustified prejudices about the CAP – particularly relating to the role of direct support payments – could lead to DEFRA implementing policies that would put English farmers at a significant disadvantage to their European counterparts, said Mr Kendall.
“I am incredibly optimistic for the future of British agriculture, but it does worry me that the positive noises I hear uttered by coalition ministers on the importance of domestic production are not always matched by policy direction,” he said.
“Outdated prejudices that continue to haunt the CAP must be challenged, so too the purely ideological driven policies supported by the Treasury,” added Mr Kendall. Too much CAP reform had in the past been driven by 11 Downing Street, rather than DEFRA, he added.
“I, as much as anyone, want farming to move to a place where it’s less dependent on public support, but to do so we have to nurture a system that allows farmers to produce food within a fair, functioning market that is responsive to price signals and consumer demands.”