Voluntary modulation opposed

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has suggested that voluntary modulation should be a temporary measure, which could be phased out over time.

Her comments came during a debate and vote in the European Parliament on Tuesday (13 February) at which MEPs expressed their outright opposition to VM.

Mrs Fischer Boel said she shared the parliament’s unease about a measure that could disadvantage farmers in those few countries that will use VM (such as the UK). But she said the European Parliament had to be realistic. Heads of state had already decided that VM would be introduced, however the parliament voted.

The commissioner was therefore looking to ensure that money raised by VM should at least be spent in line with the same rules governing normal rural development funds. “I also believe the measure should have a transitional rather than a permanent character,” she said. “Indeed I am of the opinion that any future increase in the rate of compulsory modulation should lead to a coresponding reduction in the rate of voluntary modulation.”

This could be built into the 2008 CAP “health check”, said Mrs Fischer Boel.

It is understood that the German presidency of the EU will issue a new text on VM in the next few weeks, ready for approval by farm ministers in April. DEFRA is hoping that this will allow it to apply different rates of VM in the four regions of the UK.

The new rural development programme for 2007-2013, covering such things as Environmental Stewardship, hill payments and organic conversion schemes, cannot be submitted for approval until the VM regulation is in place.