NFU slams ‘old school’ CLA policy

Calls by the Country Land and Business Association and the RSPB for a common agricultural policy that prioritises rural development and agri-environment measures have been branded “out of date” and “naïve” by the NFU.

The demands are contained in a new paper to be presented in the European parliament later today, (Wednesday), by CLA policy director Allan Buckwell.

According to the joint report, the CAP needs to evolve to strengthen the link between financial support and public benefits.

“The mechanisms to achieve this are likely to show more characteristics of current CAP rural development and agri-environment measures than current support measures,” it says.

There would be no need for an increase in the size of the budget, it says, but funds could be redirected from direct supports.

The CLA and RSPB accept that achieving food security is still an important objective, and that sustainable land management “requires continued active intervention by farmers and landowners”.

There may also be some types of farming, such as extensive livestock farming, which are “economically marginal” but “environmentally rich”, which should still receive some targeted support.

But as a basic principle, “all payments should be based on a clear contract between the contractor and society, spelling out the public goods that the contractor [farmer] is expected to deliver in exchange for the payments”.

The NFU, however, says it is “extremely concerned” about the direction the CLA and RSPB are heading.

“They seem to say that the only way to secure future funding is to make the CAP work harder for the environment and less hard to support farm incomes,” said head of economics Tom Hind.

“That argument may have applied 10 years ago, but this is old-school thinking. Food security and market volatility have moved up the agenda.

“To say that the destiny of the CAP lies in the delivery of public goods is naïve and does a disservice to the efforts being made by farmers to produce more and impact less.”

Speaking ahead of the launch of the paper in Brussels, RSPB director of conservation Mark Avery said that the CAP needed to be overhauled to reward farmers properly for the environmental benefits they provide.

“Skylarks, lapwings and yellowhammers are an intrinsic part of the UK countryside, and we are very pleased to be joining forces with the CLA to help make sure they are still there for many years to come,” he said.

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