Beth Metson Blog
November 13, 2013
Greening the CAP – Value for money?
As I work my way around the teams in the East updating on the CAP there are practical points raised where farmers will have issues complying. These are being taken away and forming part of a response to the CAP consultation that is available online until 28th November for everyone to have their say.
There is a CAP budget reduction of 13% from what we see currently. There is a general consensus in the consultation that CAP direct payments deliver poor value for money for the taxpayer due to the limited environmental benefit derived. This is a key point that the new CAP is striving to put right – yes the introduction of Ecological Focus Areas and maintaining permanent pasture will give rise to environmental benefit, but why are we wasting our time on crop diversification?
The rationale put forward by the European Commission is that the Greening measures will deliver environmental benefits, and thus provide some value for money from the direct payment regime, I agree with that. The CAP is a burden to European consumers and taxpayers and we as an industry should be seen to give value for money. However the evidence paper that goes alongside this consultation clearly states there are no environmental benefits to the crop diversification measures that will soon be a requirement of the CAP.
Some may view any change away from current farming practices as negative, some may have the opinion if these changes mean more value for money to the taxpayer then perhaps this is positive. Some may even go the extreme of taking a financial penalty to add value to the environment and therefore to CAP. What I cannot see as worthwhile is changing the farming practices of 7% of farms, mainly cereal growers making up 12% of the total arable area in England, for no sustainable reason at all. This will be the case when crop diversification becomes part of what growers must do to receive a substantial part of their direct payments.
These 7% of farmers that will need to change farming practices to meet crop diversification rules will not only be giving little environmental benefit by doing so but many will incur costs which exceed the value of the Greening payment. There is little sense for a farm business even with environmental credentials to comply with this. These farms will surely forego the Greening payment likely to be in the region of £53/ha. The result of this, primarily due to the crop diversification element of CAP, is those farms that could add value to the environment and CAP will simply pull out of Greening all together. In this scenario the farmer loses out on payment, the environmental benefits of EFAs are lost and therefore the taxpayer continues to receive no change to the value of CAP.
For the remaining farms out there that already comply with the majority of Greening, well then this means business as usual to a degree. Where is this added value to CAP here?
There is a catch of course, it is worth remembering in the first two years, non-compliant farmers will lose this 30% of their direct payment assigned to Greening, however this rises to 36% in 2017 and 37.5% thereafter. This implies more farmers will find it financially viable to comply with Greening in future years.
To have your say on the consultation go to: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/agricultural-policy/cap-consultation and air your thoughts.
You can email Beth your comments and opinions via firstname.lastname@example.org.