Scrap CAPover next 10 years, says RSPBchief

20 July 2001

Scrap CAPover next 10 years, says RSPBchief

By Philip Clarke

PRICE support for farmers should be phased out over the next 10 years and the funds transferred into environmental and rural development schemes, says RSPB chief executive, Graham Wynne.

Addressing the Where Next for European Agriculture conference in London on Tuesday (July 17), he said the CAP had failed to deliver, either to farmers or to society.

Modern practices had led to environmental degradation and a massive loss of biodiversity on farms. Yet farmers had suffered from years of falling incomes.

As well as the £24.5bn cost of the CAP, the knock-on costs of things such as cleaning up pesticides from drinking water and resolving the BSE crisis added another £2.3bn to the cost of modern farming.

"We are not trying to blame everything on agriculture, but to deny it has a played a role is to deny all logic," he said. The time had come to move in a new direction, harnessing both market forces and public policy.

That new policy was set out in a new RSPB publication Why Food Costs More Than You Think. Having phased out price support in 10 years, and eliminated export subsidies, intervention and supply controls along the way, farmers would then have access to a new two-tier support.

Half the budget would be available to all farmers in return for meeting some basic environmental conditions. The rest would be available to farmers who provided a range of "extras", such as growing energy crops, landscape improvements, habitat creation or tourism projects.

"Farmers are very much part of the solution," said Mr Wynne. "European agriculture is going to continue to need large scale public funding. The logical route is to reward farmers for providing environmental and social elements."

These views were endorsed by Northern Foods chairman, Chris Haskins, who said farmers should only qualify for subsidies if they delivered on the environment.

"There is no doubt that the CAP fanned the flames of the foot-and-mouth crisis," he said. Subsidies had caused a massive expansion in the sheep flock since the last F&M outbreak in 1967, with the consequence that many animals were moved around the country, either for export or "to balance the ewe subsidy books".

This prompted an angry response from National Sheep Association chief executive, John Thorley, who accused Lord Haskins of "talking rubbish". &#42

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