“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.