Spelman calls for flexible approach to CAP greening plans

An international summit on Common Agricultural Policy reform should look for creative and flexible solutions to the controversial greening proposals put forward by Brussels, according to DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman.

Mrs Spelman said the timing was perfect for the two-day summit (30 April-1 May), hosted by NFU Scotland in Edinburgh. She hoped to be able to take some of the ideas generated to the Council of Ministers meeting on 15 May.

In a speech that emphasised the importance of a having a greener CAP, she repeatedly underlined that the process had to be flexible to cater for the markedly different land types and agriculture systems across Europe.

She told delegates from Denmark, Holland, Germany and Ireland that she was concerned about aspects of the proposals that were a particular difficulty to Scotland.

“It’s my job to ensure the end product is workable for Scotland,” she said. “And I’m working to ensure, for example, that heather counts as permanent grassland and also to ensure that unmanaged wild areas do not attract payments, even if they are technically in good agricultural condition.”

Mrs Spelman was adamant that the best way of delivering meaningful environmental objectives was through Pillar 2, but if there was to be greening of Pillar 1 she said it should be based on six principles.

These included flexibility for Member States – and devolved administrations within Member States – to choose from a range of options to meet their different circumstances and different environmental objectives.

She added that environmental benefits delivered by greening should be additional to those already delivered by cross compliance; the level of administrative burden and complexity should be proportionate to the benefits; farmers already committed to environmental measures under Pillar 2 should be recognized and a proper balance between environmental benefits and sustainable production must be ensured.

She concluded: “You just need to look at England and Scotland, two close neighbours who share the same island, to see that one size does not fit all.”

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