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NFU AGM - Farmers Attack CAP Reform Proposals

23 February 2012, at 1:45pm

UK - A call was made for a major rethink of the mandatory nature of some aspects of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy during the National Farmers Union conference in Birmingham this week.

Gail Soutar, senior CAP and International Advisor to the NFU told the conference that the greening proposals contained in the CAP reforms proposed by the European Commission are far from perfect.

She said the greening of direct payments in the CAP is inevitable and there is a role for the environment in the reforms of the CAP, but it has to be introduced without affecting production.

However, she said that British farmers and those who are already involved in environmentally friendly production systems would be disadvantaged by three aspects of the current greening proposals in the reforms - crop diversification, retention of permanent grasslands and the seven per cent ecological focus areas.

She said at present the crop diversification proposals do not take into account crop rotation and they will demand farmers growing three different crops, even if the farming system is not designed for a third crop and there are no suitable storage facilities.

She added that the proposal for retention of permanent pasture could have a detrimental effect on dairy farmers, who would be turned into permanent pasture farmers.

Ms Soutar said that the UK farmers have already introduced many ecological and environmentally friendly aspects to their farming practices over the years including:

  • 68% of England's farmland is managed for the environment through an AES
  • A further 192,231ha of land is voluntarily managed for the environment
  • Pesticide use has declined by 41% since 1990
  • Ammonia emissions have fallen by 22% since 1990
  • Methane and Nitrous Oxide emissions have fallen by 19% and 23% respectively
  • Nitrogen application rates have fallen by over 30% since 1987
  • Phosphate use has reduced by 52% since 1983
  • 44% of all cultivated land is managed with zero or minimum tillage
  • Since 2003 the proportion of SSSIs in favourable or recovering condition has increased from 57% to 96%.
  • Farmers use less than 1% of the total amount of water abstracted in England and Wales
  • Bat populations have increased by 20% since 2000

"We need a rethink of the mandatory nature of the greening proposals and we need to take a closer look at the sanctions that might apply," she said.

She called for a list of the farmers, who will be exempt from the greening proposals and called for the agri-environmental schemes that have already been introduced to be recognised in the reforms.

"Crop diversification needs to be removed entirely because it is recoupling through the back door," she said.

"And need a rethink on the retention of permanent grassland proposals."

Ms Soutar also called for the seven per cent ecological focus areas to be considerably reduced as at present it would mean the removal of productive farmland.

She called for a focus on modern productive agriculture, which included sustainable intensification and she also called on the UK government to back UK farming.