20 May 2008 04:45 PM
Common Agricultural Policy "health check" reforms

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (149/08) issued by The Government News Network on 20 May 2008

Hilary Benn today welcomed the publication of the proposals for the next stage of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Commenting as the European Commission published the "CAP Health Check" proposals he said:

"Good progress has been made in reforming the CAP in recent years, but much more is needed to boost farm competitiveness, protect the environment, improve value for money and address concerns about food prices.

"The Health Check should shift the emphasis of the CAP even more towards protecting the environment. The UK is encouraging farmers to manage their land in a more environmentally beneficial way. We want to see more funding diverted from production subsidies towards targeted measures which will improve our landscape and biodiversity. We will be encouraging other member states to follow our example and offer incentives to farmers to make environmental improvements".

"The Health Check must also phase out all the price support measures which have kept consumer prices high and the export subsidies which have undermined farmers in developing countries. And it must cut the bureaucracy and remove the market controls and production linked payments which have hampered the competitiveness of farmers, so they can respond to the growing global demand for food.

"We will now study the Commission's proposals carefully and negotiate for the Health Check to advance these aims."

The Health Check is an important step towards the Government's longer term vision for the CAP, published in 2005, which calls for the end of all direct farm payments by 2015 to 2020, leaving the CAP targeted at the protection of the environment.

Notes for editors

The CAP Health Check is a scheduled review of the major CAP reforms of 2003. The legislative proposals published by the Commission today launch six months of negotiations, with the intention of concluding a deal by the end of the year.

The Government's ambitions for the Health Check include:

1. removing the production linked farm payments which remained after the 2003 reforms and avoiding the re-introduction of new distortions;

2. further shifting the balance away from farm subsidies towards measures which protect and enhance the environment;

3. simplifying the bureaucracy associated with the CAP, including the Single Payment Scheme;

4. simplifying the system of cross-compliance which makes farm payments dependent on meeting a range of environmental and other standards, and targeting the system better at delivering key environmental objectives;

5. setting a clear timetable for phasing out price support and market controls including the use of intervention, production controls and export subsidies;

6. phasing out the milk quota system in a way which provides a smooth transition for dairy farmers and gives them the certainty they need to plan their businesses.

7. putting measures in place to capture the key environmental benefits provided by set-aside;

The Government and the devolved administrations have published their aims for the Health Check at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/capreform/pdf/caphealthcheck-govresponse.pdf

The Government's longer term vision for the CAP is available at:

The Government will be launching a public consultation on the Commission's Health Check proposals in June.

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