The Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

13  Conclusion on the Commission's Three Options

229.  Although the Commission outlines three options for the CAP post-2013, it appears to us that these do not represent a genuine choice.

230.  Maintaining the status quo as outlined in Option 1 is undesirable as the historic system of payments cannot be continued to 2020 without severely compromising the relevance of the CAP and entrenching distortions between Member States. Moreover the future CAP must place greater emphasis on sustainability alongside productivity, reducing the adverse effects of farming on the environment and making a positive contribution to achieving the EU's targets on climate change and biodiversity. Equally, abolition of direct payments and market measures as suggested in Option 3 is clearly not advisable in the period to 2020 given farmers' dependence on income support and trade protection, nor is this option likely to win support in the European Council or Parliament.

231.  However, this does not mean we should accept the middle way, Option 2, as it stands. While we support the principle behind greening Pillar 1, we are concerned that the proposed system of multi-tiered payments will be complex to administer and risks adding additional layers of regulation for fairly marginal environmental benefit. We recommend that the Commission instead look at greening the CAP through the existing structures in Pillar 2 backed up by strengthened incentives and targets to ensure uptake is achieved widely across Europe.

232.  We have expressed several additional reservations about the proposals for direct payments. We consider that capping direct payments and giving additional financial support to small farmers would be disadvantageous to UK producers and would not enhance agricultural competitiveness. We question the value of a new definition of an active farmer that could generate additional administrative burdens. However, we welcome some aspects of Option 2, including the commitment to a more equitable distribution of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 funding and strengthening of knowledge transfer instruments.

233.  We believe that the Commission's Option 2 offers the most benefits to UK farmers, rural communities and the agri-food industry. However we have reservations about some of their ideas, in particular, 'greening' Pillar 1 through compulsory additional agri-environmental measures. We recommend that Defra offers its support to Option 2 while working proactively in Europe to negotiate changes to some aspects of the proposals and explore additional options for 'greening' the CAP, as outlined in our recommendations.

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