Greening the Common Agricultural Policy

Written evidence submitted by Water UK (GCAP 17)

1. We believe that good water, soil and air quality should be at the heart of the Common Agricultural Policy. The shift in the emphasis of the CAP, from paying farmers to produce more food to supporting them to provide environmental and land management benefits, has provided opportunities for water companies to work with the agricultural community on schemes that have, in some areas, already provided measurable benefits for customers in terms of water quality. However, Defra makes it clear that, under HLS for example, the scheme’s primary objectives are to:

· Conserve wildlife (biodiversity)

· Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character

· Protect the historic environment

· Protect natural resources (water and soil), and

· Promote public access and understanding of the countryside

2. There are also secondary objectives for genetic conservation (rare breeds), flood risk management, and an overarching objective to contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. [1]

3. Many schemes support farmers for species specific activities, which we feel is looking somewhat through the wrong end of the telescope. We believe that, once you have achieved good water, soil, and air quality, many of the other benefits we as a nation seek – such as resilient biodiversity, enhanced landscape, flood resilience and climate change adaptation and mitigation – will happen as a result of getting these building blocks right. We feel, therefore, that that CAP support for environmental objectives should start with the water, soil and air. The Committee may like to ask Defra ministers and officials whether they feel that the time is right for a similar shift in emphasis.

4. While the details provided within the proposals are fairly broad, it appears that water has no more specific prominence in the proposed new regime than it does at present: Neither the "greening" of Pillar 1, nor the new GAEC measures, appear to place water quality in a more central position than it is under the present system [2] . The measure to maintain an "ecological focus area" of 7% within the new Pillar 1 proposals does not specifically mention any water specific environmental improvement. We feel it is disappointing that the Commission has not taken the opportunity to reframe these requirements, to place water at the centre of good land management. There are very few parts of Europe where questions are not being raised about the resilience of the water supply, whether through population growth, demographic change, climate change, or a desire to support the economic benefits that a growing agricultural sector could bring. Land managers have an important part to play, in partnership with the water industry, in planning to safeguard that resilience, and supporting them in these aims through CAP would provide taxpayers with demonstrable benefits.

5. At a recent meeting with the pan-European water representative body, Eureau, Peter Gammeltoft, Head of the Water Unit at DG Environment, said that in Pillar 1, while there was very clearly a "greening", there was no clear "blueing" of the policy to reflect the importance of water management. He suggested that, at the moment, there is discussion about how widely national governments would be able to interpret these measures, how much of this interpretation should be a free choice, and how much should be used to further policy objectives, such as water quality. This is an area that the Committee may wish to explore further with policy makers.

6. It is proposed that the WFD and the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive are incorporated into cross-compliance rules once they have been shown to have been properly applied in all Member States.  This may take many years; indeed, it could be argued that for some states, WFD may be unattainable for the foreseeable future. We are aware of the concerns of removing level playing fields, but greater urgency in incorporating WFD measures would be welcome, even if it were on a state-by-state basis.

7. We support the concept of promoting increased innovation in agricultural practices. Through greater use of innovation agricultural producers can consider ways driving efficient use of water – through recycling or re-use - and adopting innovative practices for the application of products that would aid the economic efficiency of the farms whilst driving environmental benefits. Proper incentives and subsidies should stimulate innovation.

November 2011


[1] http://www.defra.gov.uk/food-farm/land-manage/stewardship/

[2] http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/685&format=HTML&aged=0&language=en&guiLanguage=en

Prepared 30th November 2011