NFU Modulation is bad for you


18 June 1999


NFU — Modulation is bad for you

By Jonathan Riley

SENIOR members of the National Farmers Union (NFU) are trying to
persuade small-scale farmers to stop calling for a limit on farm subsidy
payments.

Many family farmers, especially in south-west England, want the
government to restrict the amount of money that large holdings receive
in subsidies.

They argue that big farms receive too much money under a payment
system which unfairly favours large agribusinesses at the expense of
small family farms.

A limit on payments, known as modulation, could be implemented within
the Agenda 2000 reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy.

But senior NFU members claim family farmers are wrong to think that
any money saved from modulation could then be transferred to smaller
holdings.

“The belief amongst small-scale farmers that modulation would
transfer payments from large farms to smaller ones is mistaken,” said
Martin Haworth, NFU policy director.

Speaking at the NFU council meeting in London on Wednesday (16 June), Mr
Haworth said any money saved by modulation would have to fund rural
development schemes.

“Schemes such as early retirement, environmental schemes, Less
Favoured Areas and aforestation initiatives are the only ones which
would comply for the saved cash.

“Only a small percentage of farmers would qualify for this money and
these would not necessarily be small-scale businesses.”

Mr Haworth added his concern that money for rural development schemes
had to be matched equally by the UK Treasury while direct subsidies were
sourced entirely from Brussels.

“MAFF will, therefore, have to persuade the Treasury to put up funds
for these schemes and we could end up losing the money saved altogether,
leading to net loss for British farming,” he said.

“This would put us at a competitive disadvantage with the other
member states which have rejected modulation.

Ben Gill, NFU president, asked council representatives to report on
the attitudes of farmers during the NFUs consultation on modulation.

Although many regions are strongly opposed to modulation, NFU members
in Wales, North West, West Midlands and the South West regions have not
finalised their submissions.

Mr Haworth urged those farmers to voice their opposition to
modulation.

“We must not deliver a mixed message,” he said. “We must be united
against modulation.”

But Brian Jennings, a council delegate from the south-west, cautioned
against the NFU rejecting modulation before the consultation period had
ended.

“We must not discourage producers from putting their views across by
giving them the impression it is too late,” he said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture told Farmers
Weekly
that agriculture minister Nick Brown was not an advocate of
modulation.

But Mr Brown was keen to listen to the widest range of farmer
viewpoints possible on the subject, the spokesman added.

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