Criticism as reform of CAP slips off agenda

16 January 1998

Criticism as reform of CAP slips off agenda

PRIME Minister Tony Blairs failure to list CAP reform as one of the governments priorities during its six-month presidency of the EU has been criticised by landowners leader Ian MacNicol.

The CLA president insisted that CAP reform must not be allowed to drop off the political agenda. And he highlighted the publication this week of a Countryside Commission survey which pointed out that Britains traditional landscapes would slowly vanish unless more environmental measures were introduced to the CAP.

"This has backed up what we have always said – unless CAP is reformed, with much greater emphasis given to agri-environment measures, our countryside will continue to suffer," he said.

The report stressed that the current emphasis of grant schemes was wrong, and that the financial environment created for farmers by the CAP was fundamentally hostile to the character and beauty of the countryside. But it recognised that farmers and landowners were businessmen who judged the cost of production against the cost of environmental management.

Mr MacNicol believed that the lack of firm commitment to rural development and environmental programmes in the EU Comm-issions outline CAP reform proposals, could result in Europes rural communities becoming victims of a high risk strategy.

"What we need is reform of the CAP to produce a rural policy that will sustain agriculture, our countryside environment and our rural communities.

The Countryside Commission report showed that many farmers were working hard to create new landscape features. They were also more willing to plant trees, allow wildlife to thrive and recognised the intrinsic beauty of the countryside more than they did 10-20 years ago.

Mr MacNicol said landowners and farmers were well aware of the need for environmentally-friendly land management; no one wanted to conserve the land for future generations more than they did. But, land was also their factory floor that had to provide a livelihood for those who worked it.

Catherine Hughes

CLA president, Ian MacNicol, insists that CAP reform must remain on the political agenda.

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