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Reform of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

March 29, 2013 12:33 PM
By George Lyon MEP
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Group in the European Parliament has been at the forefront of the campaign to radically reform the CAP by moving it away from income support for farmers to payments for public goods and also ensuring it delivers a more sustainable agriculture.

I set out our proposals for the Greening of the CAP in the Lyon report, which was backed by a huge majority in the European Parliament in 2010.

The Liberal Group put down a series of alternative amendments for the Plenary vote in March aimed at further strengthening of the Greening component of the Direct Payments by insisting that the flexibility given to the Member States to implement the Greening through agri-enviroment-climate measures or certification schemes was not going to be used as an excuse to water down its environmental benefits. The plenary vote supported the flexibility given to the three initial measures proposed by the Commission but unfortunately this was not the case for the agri-environment-climate and certification schemes. Our goal now is to fight to get them back in during trialogues.

We successfully reintroduced the cross compliance requirements that were deleted or substantially diluted by the vote in the Agriculture Committee and we voted against the idea of double funding, which I can say with a great pleasure was supported by the majority of the votes in Plenary. It is outrageous to propose that farmers should be paid twice for the same public goods!

We also succeeded in reintroducing of proposals the proposals for transparency so that the public can clearly see who is in receipt of funds from the CAP, and we backed tough rules to do away with "sofa" farmers.

With regard to crop rotation vs. crop diversification, both measures have similar environmental benefits and both were considered for inclusion in the CAP. Enforcing and controlling crop rotation is more problematic, however, and could lead to lower overall environmental benefits than crop diversification due to possible fraud. We therefore believe that in order to optimise the environmental benefits of the CAP, crop diversification was the better option.

Liberal Democrats believe that this reform represents a sea change in the CAP as it moves the policy dramatically away from income support to payments for environmental services and public goods. We are determined that the new CAP should be the main driver in developing a more sustainable, and a more resource, energy and carbon efficient agriculture that delivers the food that we need while reducing its impact on our environment.

George Lyon is Scottish Lib Dem MEP who sits on the Agriculture committee of the parliament.