CAP simplification initiative is welcome but lacks ambition – NFU

The NFU says that although plans by the European Union’s institutions to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy are welcome, the overall approach lacks ambition.

The comments come following a meeting by EU Agriculture Ministers where a list of priority actions that could help ease the burden of the new rules was agreed.

In response to this, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan announced that he would take immediate action by changing non-legislative Commission guidance on the new CAP to apply for the 2015 claim. He also unveiled plans to bring forward a package of proposed changes to secondary legislation after the summer break for future years’ claims.

Gail Soutar, NFU chief economics and international affairs adviser, said: “There is an urgent need to simplify the CAP rules. The efforts of the Commissioner and the member states is to be welcomed and the concrete measures presented by Commissioner Hogan to apply for the 2015 claim will provide some limited flexibility for farmers. These include providing greater clarity on EFA mapping requirements and the position EU auditors will take in assessing compliance. However the overall level of clear ambition falls short of our expectations with respect to implementation in the first year.

“Delays in decision making, failure to issue guidance in a timely manner, the development of an entirely new application process that has proven not to be fit for purpose in England, as well as a failure to communicate the impact of non-compliance, leave farmers in an incredibly difficult and uncertain predicament. It is vital that the Commission, RPA inspectors and auditors are aware, that this situation was not of the farmers’ making. The NFU continues to call for specific changes to the rules to foresee greater tolerances in cases where farmers are close to fulfilling the new requirements, but unfortunately fall short.

“We look to the Commission to translate the simplification initiative into meaningful action that will genuinely benefit farmers on the ground and will continue to work closely through our Brussels office to understand how the changes to EU Commission guidance documents will apply for this year’s claim.”

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