Shape of CAP reform starts to emerge

Details of a likely CAP agreement are starting to emerge after two days of intense talks in Luxembourg.

The Irish presidency has reached a provisional agreement for the future of the CAP with representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission after a series of three-way talks (trilogues).

Talks will recommence in Brussels on Wednesday (26 June) with a view to ironing out any outstanding issues, in a bid to get a political agreement by the afternoon.

A ‘state-of-play’ document was issued by the Council of the European Union on Tuesday afternoon which gives the clearest indication yet of where the discussions have got to.

Key points are as follows:

Active farmers – In a bid to make sure that payments only go to active farmers it has been put forward that no direct payments will be granted to people operating airports, waterworks, real estate and sports and recreational grounds.

Capping payments – The proposal on capping remains unclear. The documentation refers to percentage cuts being applied to payments over €150,000, but no figures have been included in the document.

Ecological Focus Areas – Farms with more than 15ha of arable land will have to have an Ecological Focus Area of at least 5% of the arable land on their holding from 1 Jan 2015. This could increase to 7% in 2017 subject to an evaluation report by the Commission and further legislation. Farms where more than 70% of the eligible agricultural area is permanent grassland look to be excluded

Member states will get to choose what they consider to be an EFA but it could include fallow, buffer strips – including those covered by permanent grassland provided they are distinct from the adjacent arable areas – and areas with nitrogen fixing crops.

Permanent grassland – Members states will need to ensure that the amount of land under permanent pasture does not deviate by more than 5% from a reference ratio. Individual countries will be given the option to decide whether to apply an obligation to maintain permanent grassland at a farm level in order to meet this target.

Young farmers – A mandatory scheme for young farmers has been provisionally agreed funded by up to 2% of direct payments.

Coupled support – All member states will have the option of using up to 8% of the annual national ceiling for coupled support. Countries can also use an additional 2% in order to support the production of protein crops. Any countries which have previously used more than 10% on coupled support may be able to use 13% of the national ceiling for coupled support.

The possible deal is already alarming farmers in the UK wth English farmers warning that DEFRA’s plans for the implementation could leave them disadvantaged.

Farmers attending NFU Council on Tuesday (25 June) claimed DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson and DEFRA minister Owen Paterson had refused to listen to farmers’ concerns during the negotiations.

“DEFRA ministers’ plans are likely to include the maximum 15 per cent voluntary modulation,” said NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond. “This on top of 10 per cent EU-wide modulation, future financial discipline cuts, which in 2013 will be five per cent and up to two per cent removed from direct payments for a mandatory young farmers scheme, could see English direct payments cut by ‘around 20 per cent under the reformed CAP.

“These cuts will further disadvantage English farmers against their EU counterparts, with the gap that already exists in payments levels set to get even wider.”

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