Brown pledges to fight subsidy ceiling

04 February 1999

Brown pledges to fight subsidy ceiling

By Shelley Wright

FARM minister Nick Brown has promised to fight any attempts by the EU Commission to introduce a compulsory ceiling on farm aid payments.

He told the NFU annual meeting in London yesterday (Wednesday) that the proposal, part of Agenda 2000, was discriminatory and ran “directly counter to a main objective of the reforms which is to make our agriculture more competitive.”

Outlining the governments position on CAP reform, Mr Brown said ministers supported the single rate of aid proposed for cereals and oilseeds, and did not believe it would lead to a substantial fall in oilseed production.

“We also think compulsory set-aside should be abolished completely, rather than held in reserve. And voluntary set-aside should be made more flexible,” he said.

The commissions plans for dairy reform were not radical enough. And in the beef sector the flaw in the proposals was that the compensation for price cuts was production-related, and was neither time-limited nor degressive.

“There will be pressure for some shift in [beef] support towards intensive production. For the UK it is vital that adequate support is provided to the extensive sector to encourage its survival in the face of evident pressures to intensify.”

Turning to the future for hill farmers, he described as persuasive the Agenda 2000 proposal to switch support in less-favoured areas from livestock headage payments to area aid.

Including environmental objectives in hill payments was also welcome. “I do not feel that it is any longer appropriate to pay hill farmers solely according to the number of animals they produce,” he said.

What was needed was a policy that reflected more clearly the role hill farmers played in maintaining the upland countryside, but which also enabled them to compete and earn a decent living.

Mr Brown stressed that he would continue to consult farmers all the way through the CAP reform process and he told the conference of his determination to work with producers to secure a vibrant, competitive and sustainable future for British agriculture.

To achieve that, all parts of the food chain had to be encouraged to work together on issues of mutual interest and concern. And he announced that MAFF had set up a cross-industry group which would be asked to identify key themes that needed to be addressed.

The NFU, Food and Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, Institute of Grocery Distribution will each provide a representative on the group.

  • Supermarkets wary of fair trade with farmers, FWi, today (04 February, 1999)

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