Food chain CAP aid needed

FARMERS ARE willing to cope with the implementation of CAP reform, but they need the help of politicians and others in the food chain, says NFU president Tim Bennett.

Four months after taking office, Mr Bennett told press on a visit to his Carmarthenshire farm that farmers were facing an agricultural revolution.

“I have no doubt that farmers are up for it. They recognise that they have to understand consumers better and that if they do not produce what is wanted, they will be out of business.

“But they will not produce unless demand is there and the food chain gives the right signals.”

Though UK dairy farmers were among the most technically efficient in Europe, he was very worried that a greater number of larger-scale, professional dairymen than had been estimated would use their single farm payments to quit milk production, especially if they were close to retirement age.

Decoupled beef production was also a real concern.

Unless processors and retailers indicated that they were committed to paying fair long-term prices for British beef, cows would not be put in calf, store cattle would not be bought and calves would not be reared.

Single farm payments must not be used to subsidise food production, said Mr Bennett.

He said gradual progress was being made in talks with the food supply chain, but transparent marketing and an effective supply chain code of behaviour were needed to ensure farmers obtained a fair return on capital.

“I wish politicians would stop talking rot about over-production, as it sends the wrong signals to producers and the food industry. There are no large stocks.”

He said many decisions still had to be made about the reforms, but the NFU was determined that they should be smoothly and fairly implemented. New rules must not be allowed to reduce the ability of farmers to compete, said Mr Bennett.

“We need crystal clarity on cross-compliance. I don‘t want the UK to be over zealous about implementation. It must not be a job creation scheme for bureaucrats.”

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