CAP reform – CLA statement and a crying killdeer

I’m grateful to the CLA for sending me their statement on CAP reform, a matter of great importance to their membership:
A CLA spokesman said: “There has been comment on a rumour that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is proposing to cut the funds for the Rural Development (second) pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as part of the EU budget plans for the period from 2014-20.

“First, the CLA is lobbying strongly for the retention of a well-funded budget for the CAP to ensure the provision of food and environmental security.

“Second, the debate on the ‘greening’ of the CAP is far from over and we are arguing for an approach which does not penalise farmers and land managers who have already gone farthest in recognising that farming and environment must be balanced. The CLA will continue to fight for a strong, two-pillar common policy and for the necessary budget to provide for food production and the environment.”

On the process, the CLA believes the European Council should be allowed to set the overall EU budget and the CAP budget parameters for 2014-20 while leaving the details of how to divide this budget between the pillars to the agriculture council and the normal CAP decision-making process, which now includes the European Parliament.

On the mechanics, the CLA said: “We believe it would be a big mistake for the Rural Development pillar (the second pillar) to take the brunt of any cut to the CAP budget.

“The second pillar contains the main measures for helping improve agricultural competitiveness (through boosting skills and knowledge and marketing, farm restructuring and modernization and encouraging renewable energy development) and for schemes to pay farmers for environmental services which the market fails to deliver, and for supporting farming in marginal areas such as the Uplands.

“The second pillar also includes the measures for wider rural development and providing rural infrastructure such as broadband – vital to the future of rural business in the countryside.”

But on the principle, the CLA believes that having the right funds available in the right programmes is more important than the “architecture” of the CAP (the first pillar and the second pillar) in which they sit.

Now at least this is a lot clearer than the NFU’s position.  The CLA don’t want to see Pillar 2 being cut disproportionately so I guess that means either pro rata cuts for Pillars 1 and 2 or greater cuts for Pillar 1 – although the CLA don’t actually say that.  And there is a certain amount of ambiguity on where the CLA would like to see the Pillar 2 money spent – it could be on competitiveness rather than on the environment.  But for clarity and environmental awareness the CLA, as usual, score much higher than the NFU.

But for the clearest and most sensible position we must go back to Defra’s own statement: “The CAP budget needs to decrease very  substantially – but cuts should be focused on Pillar 1. We’re concerned  by rumours that Pillar 2 may be disproportionately in the firing line.  Pillar 2 is better value for money, contributing to economic growth,  supporting the environment and agricultural competitiveness, and should  have a larger share of a smaller CAP budget.

This is spot on.  Three cheers for Defra, two cheers for the CLA and one boo for the NFU.

This stuff may seem very dull, and I’m not sure I can persuade you that it is exciting – but it is certainly important.  The decisions made on CAP will determine what the countryside is like in future, and how much or how little nature it can contain.

Remember, skylark numbers have halved since I was a lad, and many other farmland birds have experienced greater declines.  No-one went out and shot them, trapped them or strangled them – but they are gone nonetheless.  Their demise was caused by policy decisions made because nobody kept nature in mind, or if they did, then they didn’t do anything about it.

It’s back to that killdeer on the beach – it’s crying out now, so please listen to it, and support the RSPB’s campaign to influence the outcome of these decisions.  Please do it now as the budget is unveiled on 29 June.

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4 Replies to “CAP reform – CLA statement and a crying killdeer”

  1. Hmm. So I was bang on the money about the NFU.

    As you said, their position is increasingly polarised, and it's all about farming subsidies for their members. Or should that read, 'their members farming subsidies', or 'their members' farming subsidies'...

    The NFU have masqueraded as a voice for all farmers, including those of an environmental bent, but when belts are being tightened and budgets cut and reallocated, their true colours begin to show once more.

    Leopards and spots...

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  2. Strange just to quote Skylarks as if that is the only problem,of course you well know that dozens if not even hundferds of species in just as bad a decline without doubt mostly not farmers fault so there is a much much bigger problem that you either have no ideas on or choose to ignore.
    The big question I have for you is what is the cause of all the other declines.

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  3. " True colours"? It's ok for Unison to work for its members but not NFU? It's their UNION and thank goodness because the Treaty of Rome and its discredited successor certainly isn't doing what it says on the tin. The fact is that food production costs more than it returns which is why it has to be subsidised. As subsidies have decreased, the environment has suffered because farmers have had to increase production to stay in business.
    Take the subsidies away and there won't be enough farmers left to work the land. Land abandonment is already happening in the marginal areas. You can't be green when you're in the red which most farmers are to the banks. If farming is such a cushy number why are they leaving the industry in droves? Why are they having to intensify, using up every centimetre of ground, applying chemicals, pesticides and nitrogen to maximise production for the greedy public who want endless supplies of cheap food and have the nerve to call farmers greedy. Time the public learned there is a cost to their cheap food. If they paid more they would value it more and not throw so much into landfill.

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    1. Daye - great comments! Thank you very much. Welcome!

      Absolutely all right for the NFU to act as a union for its members. That is what it is and what it's for. So I'd rather it were a bit more honest about that and stopped claiming to be pursuing a moral crusade to feed the world - particularly when it supports biofuel production which is not about helping people, the climate or the environment in general - it's about making money. The hypocrisy of hand-wringing over the hunger of the world and supporting land being taken out of food production for inefficient biofuels is quite breathtaking.

      Take the subsidies away and there will be fewer farmers but just as much land farmed, I would guess. And that's the way that farming has been heading for years, isn't it. I have spent the last 20 years arguing that farming deserves public subsidy and I still believe that. But there is a question about whether the current system which spreads money widely without regard to need or quality of farmers or farming gives good value for money to the people who provide the money.

      It seems likely that at a time when every other sector is facing cuts then farming will face cuts too. The question is should that be on Pillar 1 or Pillar 2. NFU rather coy about telling the people who pay those subsidies which option it prefers. I prefer cuts to Pillar 1 because it is such a poor way of supporting good and deserving farmers. Maybe if the farming industry had recognised these failures and worked to reduce them then it would be easier to justify the payments now.

      Farming is not a cushy number - who said it was? Not me. Farming is cushy for some and very tough for others.

      Farmers are greedy - I don't think so, and haven't said so.

      I agree that the future probably consists of the public paying more for their food - I'd be happy with that. But paying more in the shops (where some of that food will come from outside the UK) will be even more reasonable if the other costs of food - subsidies and external costs of agriculture - are reduced and that means reforming the subsidy system and encouraging a more environmentally friendly form of farming.

      Thank you again for your comments - hope to see more of your comments here in future.

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