Greening the Common Agricultural Policy - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

5  Conclusion

90.  Greening, in terms of greater environmental benefits is a laudable aim for the Commission. But the weight of evidence we received suggests that the current proposed measures are poorly designed. There is little evidence that they will deliver significant environmental benefit. They also risk reducing the competitiveness and productivity of EU farmers.

91.  A consistent theme throughout the evidence is that environmental benefits are enhanced when measures are tailored to local circumstances. There is a clear tension between a CAP that was conceived as a method of securing a single market and a CAP that reflects local circumstances. As the CAP has developed and become more about environmental outcomes, the rationale for a centralised, heavily regulatory and interventionist policy has diminished. As the objectives of the CAP have shifted so has the balance of money—previously EU funds were spent on intervention pricing and providing compensation to farmers. The CAP's move towards an environmental focus has meant that EU funds should now be focussed on attaining the desired environmental outcomes.

92.  We consider environmental enhancements under the CAP to be beneficial. UK farmers have delivered significant environmental improvement through agri-environment schemes and the Government must ensure that those benefits are not diluted by the imposition of mandatory 'greening' measures that would create perverse and contradictory outcomes.

93.  A CAP that is determined solely by what compromises can be made in negotiations is bound to flounder on the detail. CAP 'greening' must be done effectively, providing tangible environmental benefits and without disproportionate costs to beneficiaries or Member States. If the 'greening' proposals do not meet these requirements, either Member States and the European Parliament will seek to water them down and so render them ineffective; or, worse, they will have perverse, negative outcomes for the environment and agriculture.

94.   Without greater clarity about the details of the rules and requirements of the measures it is difficult to assess the environmental impact of the proposed Pillar 1 'greening' measures.[208] The Commission will approve the details of the proposals in the form of delegated acts once the negotiations on the main legislation have concluded.[209] The UK Government, along with the other Member States is being asked to agree to a set of proposals without any detailed evidence as to their efficacy or desirability.

95.  Rather than place their faith in the Commission's as yet ill-defined measures, Member States and the European Parliament should continue to work on revising the proposals so that they allow for flexibility of approach while protecting the environment. We do not recommend that Defra oppose the concept of 'greening' Pillar 1, but rather that it should focus on the practical effects of the proposals. Defra must focus on securing a system that gives enough flexibility to the UK to work within its existing system of agri-environment schemes. There is still time for the proposals to be improved and Defra must ensure it has the resources to find, engage and secure reliable allies across the European Union and effectively and persuasively to put the UK's case that the CAP should support both the agricultural sector and provide environmental protection.

208   Ev 99, Ev w51 Back

209   Ev w52 Back

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Prepared 1 June 2012