The four main farm unions of the United Kingdom today unveiled a joint manifesto aimed at the June elections to the European Parliament. The slim, 8 page document sets out a UK farmers’ agenda on a range of issues of concern. While the manifesto makes the case for lighter touch regulation of farming (e.g. on pesticides, nitrates, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation and health issues like BSE) it calls for more powerful regulation of the food chain to defend farmers incomes. When it comes to the future of the CAP it seems that the major concern is to prevent the ‘re-nationalisation’ of the policy.
The document says:
“Our main concern is to ensure that the CAP remains a common policy and that distortions between EU member states are eliminated.”
I assume that means endorsing the idea of a flat-rate per hectare subsidy payment across the whole of the EU, something which the new member states that joined since 2004 have long called for.
When it comes to the future of state support for farmers in ‘less favoured areas’ like uplands and places that are very cold, very hot or very dry, the manifesto takes an approach that appears to be a departure from previous NFU policy. It states:
“any proposed changes under the upcoming review [of LFA payments] must ensure that only active farmers facing legitimate hardship should be eligible”
In the UK as in many parts of the EU, a great deal of LFA money goes to a few very large estates owned by extremely wealthy people. It’s interesting that the NFU is arguing for payment limits or the means testing of LFA support. I don’t imagine this has gone down too well with the likes of the Duke of Buccleuch whose 270,000 acres of Scottish land, much of which qualifies for less favoured area payments, makes him the largest private landowner in Europe.
Read the manifesto and associated material over here.