Rural | Farmers warned: be vigilant over EU ‘greening’ measures
Date of Article
Jun 13 2012

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13 June 2012, Farmers are being urged to keep a watch for consultations on new greening proposals for agriculture as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is reviewed and to make sure they join in to help establish an equitable system.

Christopher D’Olley, a leading rural partner in the south for property consultancy Carter Jonas (www.carterjonas.co.uk), says in a briefing for farmers attending Cereals, the major event of the year for arable farmers being held in Lincolnshire this week (June 13 and 14), that the agricultural community loves the idea of being “green” but cannot afford the whole cost.

He also warns that a report from British MPs on the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, “Greening the Common Agricultural Policy” does not necessarily present a solution to concerns that the current “one size fits all” proposals for the whole 27 EU member states will “hurt farmers, consumers and our countryside”.

The MPs want the EU to set high-level environmental objectives administered by individual member states and are demanding that DEFRA ensures CAP changes do not leave UK farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

“But will fragmenting control achieve this or just allow some member states to milk the system even more to their own advantage?” asks Mr. D’Olley. “Past experience shows UK farmers are unlikely to be among the winners if this happens.”

He warns that farmers should not rely on others to fight their corner and should be prepared to adjust their farming system to take advantage of any subsidies released by greening initiatives but balance them against environmental benefits.

 “If industrial conglomerates were forced to run huge factories permanently under capacity as a gesture towards cutting production and reducing CO2, they would immediately ask who pays. Farmers rightly feel the same,” adds Mr D’Olley.

“With CAP reform set for 2014, 2015, or who knows when, there is to be a move to ‘greening’. The same policy will also see a cap on the amount that can be earned in subsidies and who can claim them, a move to restrict the agri-giants who, with their large land holdings, could perhaps be persuaded to do most to conserve habitats, given the right rewards.

“Austerity across Europe means shrinking fiscal capacity for greening in agriculture, perhaps a bigger threat than changing political priorities. Set aside has been set aside and politicians are quick to demand actions from farmers, who are also charged with putting meals in the mouths of millions at lowest cost and with highest efficiency.

“The worry is that farmers will again take the flack. They are largely blamed now for ploughing field margins that everyone else wants to be nature reserves but they are driven by the need to reap maximum financial return.

“Consumers demand low price food and are no longer as worried about quality, a major blow to the once blooming and now wilting organic farmers.

“Farmers, meanwhile, continue to seek the elusive balance between essential production and green ideas.”

Top tips for farmers:

  • Keep a careful eye for consultation opportunities in the CAP review process
  • Do not assume others will fight the farmers’ corner; ensure you have your say
  • Consult with landlords where appropriate and read scheme rules carefully as they emerge
  • The health of the countryside should not purely be driven by financial return - however a well-crafted scheme will help!
  • Be prepared to adjust your farming system to take advantage of any subsidy released by greening initiatives and balance against genuine environmental benefit