The National Beef Association has criticised Defra for signaling its readiness to fall in with the EU consensus during coming CAP reform talks - instead of pushing hard to secure the best possible deal for UK farmers.
It says Defra and its Ministers should take their lead on CAP reform issues from their own agricultural industry and not from the ebb and flow of debate in other EU countries, or from conclusions reached by other EU governments.
“The UK is the biggest net contributor to the CAP budget and is therefore able to take a tougher negotiating position than other Member State. It should not be bending to the prevailing political wind,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.
“Less than two months ago Defra spelled out a 40 year food and environment strategy which at last conceded that more food would have to be produced more sustainably but also alarmed farmers by adding a daunting list of costly additional targets.”
“These included higher standards of food safety, better animal health and welfare, more money moving to support rural communities and, most importantly of all, encouragement for farmers to meet new carbon and methane emission targets - while also adjusting to public demands for cleaner water, cleaner air and better soil conservation.”
“Funds to help farmers meet these demands would be best delivered through a co-ordinated CAP package covering the entire EU rather than through national strategies that place an additional cost burden on UK tax payers and on farmers themselves.”
“If Defra is serious about its long term strategy to raise food production, and food production standards, it should be trying to install CAP policies that help to meet similar aims instead of saying it will go with the political flow.”
According to the NBA famers are anxious that less CAP money is filtered from the Rural Development Programme (RDP) into the hands of inefficient regional Rural Development Agencies where too much is wasted on staffing, expensive consultants, and administration while too little finds its way to farmers who are actively engaged in raising output while at the same time meeting other environmental, and social, demands.
“A balanced system in which as much Pillar One (SFP) and Pillar Two (RDP) funding as possible can be directed to businesses which are actively engaged in producing food, and managing their land to the high standards demanded of them, is imperative,” said Ms Haywood.
“Defra should be taking its soundings on how this is best achieved from farmers in all parts of the UK and not taking its lead from others. If it, and the public, is serious about UK farmers producing more food, while at the same time meeting higher production standards, ways must be found, within the CAP, to ensure that all of these public goods, including more food, can be delivered.”
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