The EU executive’s plans to reform the common agricultural policy are too timid, Britain’s farming and Environment Minister Caroline Spelman said Dec. 6.
The European Commission adopted plans last month that would force farmers to do more to protect the environment in order to justify public subsidies. It also proposed moving some funding from direct subsidies to a basic level of income support.
“The commission’s ideas are timid when they could and should be transformational,” Spelman told a conference on food security at Chatham House in London.
“Their timidity goes against the growing tide of ambition to deliver an expert (farming) sector which is more market orientated, more relevant to today’s economy and better able to stand on its own two feet.”
The European Commission’s plan, which will form the basis of legislative proposals due from the commission by mid-2011, did not contain any details of the future common agricultural policy (CAP) budget, currently worth about 55 billion euros ($73 billion) a year.
An EU source has told Reuters, however, it was drafted on the assumption that the CAP budget would remain stable at between 55 billion and 60 billion euros a year.
Britain has been among the country’s pushing for cuts in the farm budget in a bid to fund new priorities such as innovation and job creation at a time of huge pressure on public finances in Europe.
France and Spain, however, have called for it to remain at least at its current level after 2013.
Spelman said the current proposal was an improvement on a draft plan, leaked in October, with greater emphasis now on competitiveness, innovation and sustainability.
But she added the plan “lays insufficient recognition on the current economic situation, the future challenges and opportunity of climate change.”
“There is significant scope for us to grow our industry in the years ahead but to do that we need a European Common Agricultural Policy that looks to that future and not to the past,” Spelman said.
She said the future should be based on sustainable intensification of agriculture, respect for the environment, a reduction of waste and high animal welfare standards.