I’ve been thinking about the proposed CAP reform and chatting to a few people about it too.
The attempt to move towards more equal payments across the EU cannot be other than fair – probably. This is the agricultural equivalent of the idea of contraction and convergence. If it were decided to do the same thing within the UK as is intended across the EU, Scottish farmers would be holding out their hands for some money from English and Northern Irish farmers – that’ll be fun in a partly devolved UK.
The proposed capping of Pillar 1 payments to 300,000 euros seems to me to be a good idea and perfectly fair. If there were a ‘Single Supermarket Payment’ supporting the sellers of food rather than the producers of food’s raw materials then would you really want Tesco to get huge payments from the taxpayer compared with your corner grocer? Might you not say ‘Hang on! You’re a massive business and you don’t need a handout from your customers’ taxes.’. So might it be with land owners.
The unintended collateral damage of capping is that landowning conservation organisations will be capped too. Personally I think that is fair enough too. Charities can’t expect to benefit from public policies which are basically wrong-headed. The RSPB, for one, has long argued for reductions in Pillar 1 payments so I’m sure they will be happy that they are being reduced (maybe a bit more quickly for themselves than for some other farmers though). I hope that the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts do not argue against capping just because capping does not suit their own interests. I guess the federal nature of the Wildlife Trusts means that it is not much of an issue for them anyway.
Having compulsory Environmental Focus Areas is a good idea. If they make up 7% of the farmed area (I bet the NFU will be lobbying like mad to get this figure lowered) then their impact on agricultural production will be very small. Many farms will qualify already – I wonder how much of the RSPB’s Hope Farm would already qualify and how much of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Loddington project would already qualify? Remember that hedges and small (lots of scope for argument over that!) woods all qualify to make up part of the 7% total. And given the possibility to include the least productive parts of any farm in the EFAs any impact on the economics or productivity of the farmed landscape will be negligible – surely? Whereas the biodiversity benefit could be considerable.
The criterion for who counts as an active farmer might be a bit tricky for some NGOs too – the direct payments have to be at least 5% of your non-agricultural income for you to quality. So if, say, Vodaphone own some fields they can’t claim on them? Not even if they own hundreds of fields because Vodaphone is a very big business? Interesting.
If 30% of the Pillar 1 payments are for ‘green stuff‘ can you get the other two thirds if you don’t want to do the ‘green stuff’? That’s not clear to me.
But it is interesting that being an organic farm will ‘count’ as enough ‘green stuff’ to get the Pillar 1 payments. I wonder what happens on big, partly organic farms?
There’s plenty of scope for change and plenty of scope for consfusion at the moment. I am a bit confused so anyone who would like to make it all clear is very welcome to leave a comment here.
Here is a well-informed commentary from IEEP.