Farming News - Devolved ministers debate CAP reform in Brussels
Devolved ministers debate CAP reform in Brussels
British farming ministers are set to meet with Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in Brussels today. DEFRA Secretary of State Caroline Spelman and devolved ministers, including Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead, are meeting Ciolos for talks ahead of the AgriFish Council, in which they will go over proposed reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
Amongst the reforms the Bristish ministers will insist on will be Mr Lochhead’s priority of rural development funding, which he believes is of crucial importance to Scotland. Defra dismissed calls made by Lochhead for Scotland to be given its own place round the negotiating table, pushing instead for all UK countries to "speak with one voice."
Caroline Spelman has gone to great pains to demonstrate that Defra is taking devolved nations’ needs into account in the CAP reform debate; speaking to The Scotsman today, she highlighted efforts made to secure benefits for Scotland over changes to payments for areas of natural constraint. Spelman said, "I don’t care what the commissioner calls [areas of natural constraint] as long as we get fair recognition that a lot of the geography of countries like Scotland provide a lot of natural constraint. We know farming in uplands is difficult and we want it recognised properly."
Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr Lochhead said, "The primary purpose of CAP must always be to support food production and the £500 million annual support it delivers for Scotland is vital to ensure we can continue to be a food producing nation. The meeting gives us a great opportunity to put Scotland's key asks to the Commissioner. I am keen to discuss with the Commissioner the proposals on future payments and on greening ahead of the important policy debates in the council later in the day."
In Scotland, a major spat has broken out between Lochhead, Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon and LibDem’s Scottish rural affairs spokesman, Jim Hume, over a £100 million European Union penalty fine against the Scottish Government for illegally claiming subsidies on useless land.
Devolved ministers have told the Europe Union Agriculture Commissioner that draft proposals to reform the CAP fall short of meeting the key challenges correctly identified by the commission some months ago –making farming more productive whilst protecting the environment.
Ahead of negotiations in Brussels today on the proposed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which, at £47bn, made up nearly half the total EU budget last year, ministers laid their aims before the commissioner.
Defra secretary Caroline Spelman, who led the delegation, said, "It’s very important for the Commission to hear about the impact of its proposals in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and I wanted them to be able to put their views to Mr Ciolos. During the negotiations it’s important that the UK speaks with one voice, so that we can use the full weight of the UK’s position effectively in order to get best deal for all of the UK’s farmers and taxpayers – and for the environment.
"We remain convinced that the best way to help the environment is through the current system of specific environmental payments to farmers, in return for the public goods they provide, such as encouraging wildlife on their farms."