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NFUS Believes DEFRA Vision for Support Flawed

06 January 2011

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland believes Defra’s vision for Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as articulated at a major farming conference in Oxford today, is flawed and would do little to address the current volatility affecting farmers.

The CAP is the main policy in Europe for delivering support to farming businesses. Negotiations on reforms to the CAP begin in earnest this year and new arrangements are intended to be in place from 2014 onwards.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman recognised the role farmers have but said that the new CAP needed to be fundamentally different. Mrs Spelman claimed that rising global demand for food and rising food prices make it possible to not only reduce support to farmers but plan for its abolition.

NFUS believes this vision to be naïve and one that largely ignores the current imbalances in supply chain arrangements and their impact on producers. NFU Scotland Chief Executive James Withers said:

"Looking at the Secretary of State's speech, it is a mixed bag. Whilst the recognition of farming's increasingly important role going forward is welcome, I question whether there is a proper understanding of how the supply chain is operating, and the impact that is having on farms.

"I can sign up to the vision of a farming industry that earns a living solely from the market and not through support payments. But to suggest that rising food prices is paving the way for a quick move towards support removal is naive. The over-arching trend since the last reform of the CAP in 2003 is not rising farmgate prices. The most notable trend has been greater volatility, both for inputs and outputs from farms. On top of this, the power of the supermarkets is not working in the best interests of the country or its consumers.

"The view of the CAP outlined by the Secretary of State still smacks of the infamous Treasury vision articulated a few years ago under a different Government, where cost saving was the sole driver. That was divorced from the reality of what CAP was delivering for consumers on the ground when it was first published and remains so now.

"In a world where global food, water and energy systems are increasingly insecure, calling for removal of direct agricultural support because we have seen some spikes in food prices is poor policy-making. I agree reform is needed; so too, the industry needs to keep striving to meet the new challenges, particularly climate change. However, we don't face a choice between protectionism on the one hand and complete liberalisation on the other. We need a balanced policy and I hope the Secretary of State takes that on board before she enters into forthcoming European negotiations on CAP."

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