Paterson under fire for payment stance

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson has been accused of pursuing a farm policy that would bankrupt many farmers.

It follows a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference in which Mr Paterson repeated his intent for direct payments paid out of Pillar 1 of the CAP to end.

The minister admitted that “we might not get there this time” and it was clear that in this round, which is due to run until 2020, Pillar 1 payments would continue.

But he added: “I would like decisions on which food to produce to be left to the market, so farmers alone decide which crops to grow and which animals to raise according to demand.”

Later, Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead accused Mr Paterson of ignoring the views of Scotland and the devolved administrations by repeatedly calling for farm payments to cease.

“He is making DEFRA policy the UK policy – yet this has not been agreed at all with the other agricultural ministers in the UK,” he said.

“Removing direct payments for farm businesses would lead to bankruptcy for many and undermine Scotland’s ability to produce food and safeguard rural communities.

“Owen Paterson’s speech was simply a speech for the golden Home Counties, not a speech for Scotland.”

Mr Lochhead’s comments came days after Wales’ deputy minister for agriculture, Alun Davies, described the government’s approach to CAP reform as a major disappointment.

The minister said he had made it clear to the government that its approach did not represent the Welsh viewpoint nor the perspective shared outside Westminster.

“The cuts that the UK government seeks in both CAP and in structural funds will not help support Welsh agriculture and will not stimulate the wider economy of rural Wales,” said Mr Davies.

Mr Paterson’s stance has also come under fire in England with NFU president Peter Kendall claiming it was ideologically-driven.

“In years like 2012 it is clear to see that the support farming receives from the CAP is an absolute lifeline to many farmers,” Mr Kendall said. “If there is to be a reduction in these payments it should take place evenly across Europe’s single market. Already an English dairy farmer, on a typical 100ha farm, receives €20,000 (£16,200) a year less than a Danish or Dutch competitor. This has to stop.”

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