Monday, 1 July 2013

NFU give cold welcome to CAP deal

As predicted a couple of weeks ago a deal was struck in Brussels last week over the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the consequences of which will be far reaching for farmers throughout Europe. However, closer to home this has not been welcomed by the National Farmers Union (NFU) in particular. This is not necessarily because of the deal itself but because of fears that our own government may create rules which could disadvantage farmers in England.

These fears are not entirely unfounded in that when the last reforms were introduced, the then Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett imposed the rules in England in such a complicated manner that I still have clients who are trying to get errors corrected that go back to 2005. The rules in Scotland and Wales were by comparison much more straightforward.

The issue appears to be that individual governments will be allowed significant flexibility at a local level on how to implement the new reforms which on the face of it sounds very sensible – after all what is “common” about olive groves in Greece and grassland on Mendip.

At the time of writing the details are still unclear but there is no doubt that DEFRA, the government department which will oversee the new scheme in England, does have a track record of “leading the way” in the implementation of new ideas. In themselves these may not be a problem but if we are the only country which introduces them, then this can have the effect of disadvantaging English farmers over those even in Scotland or Wales not to mention the rest of Europe.

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson has explained that the flexibility will mean that farmers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales could be reassured their governments now had complete freedom to deliver a CAP tailored to their individual needs. He explained, "I think it is good these sorts of decisions are made as locally as possible, so all four parts of the UK will now have complete control of all four regulations of the CAP - so there will be a completely Scottish CAP, a completely Welsh CAP and obviously [the same] in England."

Clearly, as with all these complicated deals, the devil will be in the detail and this is likely to emerge in the coming months but the “local” flexibility which appears to have been built in to the regulations could turn out to be a double edged sword and farmers leaders and other countryside organisations will no doubt have a lot of lobbying still to do before the implications of the new deal for farmers in England is fully understood.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

No comments: