Minister hits out over CAP ‘double-funding’ plans

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson has slammed MEPs who effectively voted for farmers to be paid twice for undertaking the same environmental measures.

The so-called “double-funding” issue – which has divided policymakers – would see farmers who receive agri-environmental payments under Pillar 2 of a reformed CAP automatically qualify for full payments under Pillar 1 without having to meet any additional requirements.

“Many landowners and farmers would be embarrassed to take money for doing the same thing twice,” Mr Paterson told Farmers Weekly. It was important that the decision by the EU parliament’s agriculture committee was reversed when put before the full parliament in March.

“It is wrong, given the current economic circumstances across Europe, that hard-pressed consumers – who are also finding rising food prices – should be expected to pay significant amount of taxpayer’s money for measures that are duplicating activity.”

Mr Paterson said he remained “bitterly disappointed” with the direction of CAP reform talks. It was also “absolutely ludicrous” that MEPs expected taxpayers to subsidise crops such as tobacco at the same time as paying for campaigns to stop people smoking.

Decisions on which crops to grow and animals to raise should be left to the market, said Mr Paterson. But there was clear justification for taxpayers’ money to be spent on the work farmers and landowners did to improve the environment.

After talks in Dublin with Irish farm minister Simon Coveney, Mr Paterson said it would be “better for everyone” if politicians met a target set by Ireland, which holds the EU presidency, for a CAP deal to be finalised by June to have the best chance of a new CAP in time for 2015.

“The uncertainty is thoroughly bad for our farmers and everyone involved in the food business,” said Mr Paterson.

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