Leaders gather for CAP showdown

Politicians and farm leaders are gathering in Luxembourg as CAP reform negotiations enter what could be their final stages.

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson is among those attending as MEPs, agriculture ministers and European farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos try to thrash out an agreement covering 2014-2020.

Farming organisations from across Europe are stepping up their lobbying ahead of the meeting.

The Luxembourg meeting is seen as the last chance for a CAP reform agreement under the EU Irish presidency, which ends on 30 June.

If no deal is forthcoming, it could take months before a deal is brokered under the Lithuanian presidency – which is said to have little appetite for overseeing talks.

NFU president Peter Kendall is travelling to Luxembourg to ensure that farmers’ views are heard at the top table during the CAP negotiations.

Mr Kendall said some people had suggested there must be a deal at all costs.

But he added: “I disagree, what’s far more important is that we achieve the right deal and that DEFRA then implements that fairly in England.”

It was important that MEPs and ministers – including Mr Paterson – heard farmers’ concerns loud and clear as they went into the final stages of negotiations.

“I want to see a CAP policy that reduces and eliminates competitive distortions and disadvantages on the EU’s common market, not exacerbates them.”
NFU president Peter Kendall

“I am fighting for a simpler, more common policy,” said Mr Kendall.

“I want to see a CAP policy that reduces and eliminates competitive distortions and disadvantages on the EU’s common market, not exacerbates them.”

The NFU favours a policy which continues to allow farmers to make decisions based on the market and strengthens the position of farmers in the food chain.

“If we can achieve or take steps towards meeting these objectives, then this CAP reform may not yet be a complete failure,” said Mr Kendall.

It was of critical importance that English farmers were treated fairly when the time came for DEFRA to implement whatever was agreed for the next CAP.

“There are many priority issues for the NFU still to be resolved,” said Mr Kendall.

The NFU opposes the transfer of any money from direct payments pillar towards rural development fundings – and vice versa.

In the event that such transfers went ahead, Mr Kendall said he wanted a “co-financing requirement” attached to those funds.

The NFU also strenuously opposes powers for member states to gold plate so-called “greening” rules requiring farmers to implement environmental measures in return for support payments.

“I will also continue to fight for more proportionate penalties and risk-based inspections across the CAP,” said Mr Kendall.

“My opposition to increases in the levels of coupled aid permitted by member states and regions remains resolute, and I will continue to raise objections against the capping and degressivity proposals which would disproportionally disadvantage UK’s larger farm structures.

It’s widely accepted that CAP reform will spell the end for sugar quotas, although the precise date for quotas to be abolished is still to be decided.

“Of critical importance to our sugar beet growers is the contractual and negotiating conditions under which they will operate once it happens,” said Mr Kendall.

“While British Sugar remains as the sole sugar beet buyer in the UK, it’s really important we have safeguards to counterbalance its market power though a single collective negotiating agreement.”

The NFU also opposes any new supply management measures once the dairy quotas end in 2015.

The timetable

The Irish government, which holds the current EU presidency, is aiming to strike a deal before its six month presidency ends on 30 June.

It is the first time in CAP reform history that agreement will have to be reached between the three institutions of the EU – The Council of Ministers, the Commission and the European Parliament.

Political trilogies (three-way talks) between the organisations are ongoing in a bid to reach a compromise deal.

An indicative timetable has been issued which suggests that agreement might be reached by Wednesday evening (26 June) or Thursday morning (27 June).

Representatives from all member states arrived at the weekend for ‘informal’ meetings ahead of Agriculture Council which started on Monday (24 June).
Trialogue meetings started again on Monday afternoon and will continue into the night.

Agriculture ministers will meet again on Tuesday and then the action will shift to Brussels on Wednesday (26 June) where the agriculture committee of the European Parliament will debate the trialogue texts in the presence of Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney and farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

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