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Parliament’s health check recriminations begin

With the ink barely dry on the Council of Ministers’ final compromise deal on the health check, leading members of the European Parliament are laying into each other after a day of chaotic voting on the Parliament’s approach to the CAP. In a podcast interview yesterday, Paulo Casaca MEP (Socialist Group) told me that the Parliament was ‘lost’ and suffering from a lack of political leadership, something he thought could come from the Commission or from within the Parliament itself. Meanwhile Neil Parish MEP, chairman of the Agriculture Committee and a senior member of the right-leaning European Peoples Party – European Democrats grouping, voted against his own committee’s report and against the EPP-ED position.… Read the rest

+++ Health Check deal +++

European farm ministers have reached a deal on the CAP health check. The principal points are these:

* Five annual milk quota increases of 1% each with effect from April 2009, prior to total abolition of the quota system as from April 1 2015 (unchanged from Commission proposal). As is now traditional, when it comes to milk quota, Italy will receive a special derogation that allows it to increase its quota by the full 5% in the first year.

* The rate of modulation (shifting funds from direct aids to rural development aids) will be raised from 5% at present to 10% by 2012.… Read the rest

Podcast: Paulo Casaca MEP on the chaos of Parliament's farm policy

Paulo Casaca MEPIn the second of today’s podcasts from the European Parliament, Paulo Casaca MEP gives his immediate reaction to a series of votes on the CAP health check that saw many MEPs break ranks from agreed party lines, evidence of the passions that are aroused when the Parliament debates food and farming. He argues that the Parliament has lost its way on the CAP and must come up with a new vision for the future of the policy. Mr Casaca is a Portuguese member of the Socialist Group and represents the Azores. He sits on the Budget Committee and chairs the pro-CAP reform Land Use & Food Policy Intergroup.… Read the rest

Podcast: Paulo Casaca MEP on the chaos of Parliament’s farm policy

Paulo Casaca MEPIn the second of today’s podcasts from the European Parliament, Paulo Casaca MEP gives his immediate reaction to a series of votes on the CAP health check that saw many MEPs break ranks from agreed party lines, evidence of the passions that are aroused when the Parliament debates food and farming. He argues that the Parliament has lost its way on the CAP and must come up with a new vision for the future of the policy. Mr Casaca is a Portuguese member of the Socialist Group and represents the Azores. He sits on the Budget Committee and chairs the pro-CAP reform Land Use & Food Policy Intergroup.… Read the rest

Podcast: Neil Parish MEP on today's health check vote

Neil Parish MEPThe European Parliament today votes on the CAP health check. I spoke with Neil Parish MEP (pictured right), who represents the largely rural constituency of South West England and is a farmer himself. He also chairs the Parliament’s agriculture committee, which drafted the report that is being voted on today. Perhaps unusually for a committee chairman, Neil will be voting against his own committee’s report. We discuss the key issues in the health check end-game and the role of the Parliament, the prospects for the CAP reform in the EU budget review and the positive effect of the fall of sterling for UK farmers.… Read the rest

Podcast: Neil Parish MEP on today’s health check vote

Neil Parish MEPThe European Parliament today votes on the CAP health check. I spoke with Neil Parish MEP (pictured right), who represents the largely rural constituency of South West England and is a farmer himself. He also chairs the Parliament’s agriculture committee, which drafted the report that is being voted on today. Perhaps unusually for a committee chairman, Neil will be voting against his own committee’s report. We discuss the key issues in the health check end-game and the role of the Parliament, the prospects for the CAP reform in the EU budget review and the positive effect of the fall of sterling for UK farmers.… Read the rest

The methane menace and hamburgers

A paper on the contribution to climate change of livestock methane emissions has found that the problem is likely to get worse as global demand for meat and dairy products increases. Dr Andy Thorpe, an economist at Portsmouth University, found that a single herd of 200 cows can produce annual emissions of methane roughly equivalent in energy terms to driving a family car 180,000 km.… Read the rest

Fischer Boel in the European Parliament

Mariann Fischer Boel attended the plenary debate on the CAP health check in the European Parliament earlier today. There is little to report from the debate – most of the contributions were bland and reflected the general desire of the European Parliament to water down the Commission’s reform proposals. Neil Parish MEP called for the pace of reform to continue but it was Brian Simpson MEP who made the most powerful dissenting speech, ripping into the Parliament’s draft report, written by Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos MEP. Mr Simpson concluded that

“Your position, Commissioner, on compulsory modulation, is right. Your position on decoupling is right.

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European Parliament defends farm fat cats

If Europe’s wealthiest landowners, from the Duke of Westminster in the UK to Prince Albert of Monaco to the fabulously-named Johannes Adam Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marko d’Aviano Pius von und zu Liechtenstein (aka Hans Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein) were having sleepless nights over the future of their six and seven figure annual handouts from the Common Agricultural Policy, they can rest assured that they have friends in high places. Or at least, they have friends in the European Parliament.… Read the rest

Cross compliance: is the Court of Auditors being gagged?

As Wyn Grant has observed, the Court of Auditors annual report on the 2007 EU budget published on Monday identified a clutch of weaknesses associated with the controls on spending on EU farm policies. The Court observes that “Some 20 percent of payments audited at final beneficiary level and revealed incorrect payments, a limited number of which had a high financial impact.” It concludes that farm subsidies remained “affected by a material level of error of legality and/or regularity”.

Strangely absent from the Court’s report was an evaluation of cross compliance – the environmental and animal health and welfare conditions that are required of all recipients of CAP direct payments: public expenditure which totals some 36 billion euros a year (28 billion euros of which is spent under the Single Payment Scheme).… Read the rest