COMMONS

Don’t penalise English farmers urge MPs

03 December 2013

English farmers must not be disadvantaged by new CAP rules, MPs say today. The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee urges the Government to protect the competitiveness of England’s farmers and give them the funding they need to invest in their businesses.

Launching the report on Implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (HC 745), the Committee’s Chair, Anne McIntosh MP, said:

"Against a background where farm incomes are falling, the Government needs to recognise that cutting payments to these businesses will reduce their ability to compete in the marketplace, will leave farmers less able to invest in vital infrastructure and may make them more vulnerable to shocks such as poor weather, higher input costs and price variations."

The Committee also warns against Government plans to transfer more money away from direct payments to farmers by shifting it towards environmental schemes.

Anne McIntosh added,

"We recommend that the Government maintains the current 9% rate of transfer away from the direct payment budget. This rate of transfer should rise to 15% in 2017 only if it can demonstrate that additional funds are required and that this change will deliver a clear benefit."

Active farmer test

The Committee calls for money to go only to people who actually farm the land. To receive direct payments in future, claimants will have to meet an ‘active farmer test’.

“The Government must use the active farmer test to make sure that any EU subsidy goes only to people who actually and actively run a farm business, shoulder  entrepreneurial risk and are in day-to-day management control of the land they farm,” adds Anne McIntosh.

Greening

From 2015, 30% of the direct payment will be conditional on farmers achieving basic environmental measures.

Commenting on this Anne McIntosh said,

"We support the Government’s position that England should adhere as closely as possible to the ‘greening’ measures set out in the direct payments regulation. A National Certification Scheme approach to ‘greening’ does not offer the flexibility to avoid the Commission’s impractical crop diversification rule so the Government is right to dismiss this approach."

Delivery

The Committee also expresses concern that new IT challenges could affect payments to farmers or make applications unnecessarily difficult. A new, single IT system is being developed, and the Government want access to CAP funding to be ‘digital by default’, meaning farmers will have to apply online.

Commenting on this Anne McIntosh said,

“Farmers know from bitter past experience that the development of the new IT system will be a stand-out challenge for Government. A lot went wrong in the last round of changes, and these problems gave rise to £580 million in penalties. With that in mind, we question whether it makes sense to introduce a new computer system at the same time as complex new payment rules.

 

“Forcing people to engage digitally when they may well lack adequate broadband or the knowledge required could undermine successful implementation of the new scheme.

 

"We support the Government’s ambition to encourage and support as many people as possible to apply online, but people who need to must be able to get hold of the complicated guidance and apply on paper too.”

Further information

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