Launching the report, Anne McIntosh MP, EFRA Committee Chair said;
“As they currently stand, the Commission’s proposals to green the CAP would hurt UK farmers, consumers and our countryside. They will reduce food security by taking land out of production and are likely to impact badly on our environment.
It’s a nonsense to think that farmers from Finland to Sicily should be tied to the same narrow prescriptive rules. One-size-fits all regulation cannot work across the range of environments found in Europe.
To enhance biodiversity and protect the environment farmers across the EU must be able manage their landscapes in ways tailored to local farming methods and ecological concerns. The Commission’s approach will damage the natural environment and farming.”
The European Commission proposes that 30% of ‘direct payments’ made to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would be conditional on compliance with three new ‘greening’ measures. While supporting the Commission’s desire to improve the environment, the EFRA Committee rejects the approach proposed.
Instead, the UK parliamentary Committee calls for the EU to set high-level objectives for the CAP that provide for flexibility to apply the right measures for local conditions through ‘decentralising’ environmental protection under the CAP to Member States.
“Our report highlights the huge benefit that UK ‘agri-environment’ schemes have brought to biodiversity, food production and the countryside. We can be proud of what UK farmers have achieved using these voluntary schemes that allow them to manage their land in ways that enhance biodiversity and food production, for example by encouraging pollinators. We have also urged Defra to ensure that the UK's tenant farmers should not be excluded from these schemes,” adds Anne McIntosh.
The Committee concludes that Defra must ensure the balance of funding between mandatory and voluntary aspects of the CAP should not leave UK farmers at a competitive disadvantage relative to their counterparts in the rest of Europe.
MPs also warn that measures proposed by the Commission would be even more complex than the current system – adding costly bureaucracy and generating more errors in the system. Likewise, the committee concludes that the Commission’s crop diversification measure would in the UK have perverse consequences that are far less environmentally beneficial than crop rotation.
“A requirement to retain permanent pasture is likely to have unintended negative impacts. This measure would not only fail to deliver environmental benefit but also act as an incentive to remove environmentally important semi-natural grassland,” adds Anne McIntosh.
Lastly, MPs acknowledge that, of the three ‘greening’ measures offered, the Commission’s proposal for Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) has the potential to deliver the greatest environmental benefit. However, the lack of definitions within the proposals make it difficult to assess what, if any, such benefits would actually be delivered