Paterson pledges to keep CAP reform simple

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson says farmers have nothing to fear about the way the government will implement CAP reform measures agreed in Brussels.

Fears that the government would implement CAP reform in a way that disadvantaged English farmers were misplaced, suggested Mr Paterson.

“I have been criticised in some quarters for what might come out of this. I have been absolutely clear all along – we want to make sure the implementation of this is as simple as possible.”

A long-awaited deal on CAP reform was finally agreed in Brussels after almost two years of negotiations on Wednesday (26 June).

The European Union will leave it to individual member states how to implement many of the measures contained in the reform agreement.

The NFU has fears that English farmers could be left at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts – including farmers in other parts of the UK.

But Mr Paterson said: “It is laughable the idea that I want to make life difficult for English farmers – I want to make it as simple as we possibly can.”

It was good that decisions would be made as locally as possible, he said.

“All four parts of the UK will now have full control of all four regulations of the CAP. So there will be a completely Scottish CAP, there will be a completely Welsh one and [the same] in England.”

The NFU has voiced concern that DEFRA could gold-plate European “greening” rules requiring farmers to implement environmental measures in return for financial support.

But Mr Paterson said no-one at the NFU had raised the issue with him for weeks. He said he had made it clear to NFU president Peter Kendall to keep CAP implementation simple.

Mr Paterson said he was “absolutely stung” by the experience of Margaret Beckett who was DEFRA secretary when the last round of CAP reform was agreed in 2005.

“Her reform was so complicated that the UK got clobbered €590m disallowance – which is a polite EU term for fine – because we couldn’t adhere to the incredibly complex conditions.

“It is immensely important that we keep this all simple.”

Mr Paterson said he had a clear commitment from EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos that greening would be in England using DEFRA’s own mapping, IT systems and officials.

Greening would be delivered having negotiated the detail following negotiation with organisations like the NFU and the Country Land and Business Association, said Mr Paterson.

“Instead of throwing ‘verbal mortar bombs’ around, it would be much better if they came into DEFRA and we worked out the detail, which we will do.”

Mr Paterson said there would be no gold-plating of EU greening rules, it was the government’s intention to avoid the “horrors” of disallowance.

“The lesson is to keep it simple and do not gold-plate it – emphatically not.”

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