CAP payment cuts fear

AS TheSouthern’s farming pages went to press, union leaders across the UK were reacting to reports of possible extra cuts in CAP direct payments.

On Tuesday NFU Scotland said government negotiators in Brussels were trying to give member states the power to cut CAP direct payments by up to 20 per cent in a new system which would replace voluntary modulation (one of the ways Pillar 2 cash for rural development and agri-environment schemes is funded) .

The cuts would be on top of the European Commission’s proposals for 30 per cent to be ring-fenced for “greening” (see lead story) and on top of the 10 per cent compulsory modulation which European officials propose should permanently shift into Pillar 2.

In a joint statement, union leaders in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland said: “The fundamental problem is not the level of support payments to farmers, but the inadequate Pillar 2 allocation that the UK receives.”

The UK receives the lowest per hectare allocation of Pillar 2 funds of all European member states.

The leaders said: “The average payment in the UK is already below the 90 per cent EU average and efforts to further reduce payments will only serve to compound the disadvantage. This is nothing less than a blatant attempt by the UK Government to disadvantage our farmers through unilateral national action for deeper and faster cuts.

“It seems that ministers are focusing their efforts on ways to reduce Treasury spend on rural development measures. We sincerely hope ministers realise this is totally unacceptable to the farming community and are a clear signal of intent to disadvantage UK farmers.”