European policy consultants
Rural development and renewable energy

Delay in agreeing CAP reforms could be threat to rural development payments in 2014.

The delay in reaching agreement on CAP reform virtually rules out any prospect of the new regime coming into force in 2014, as originally proposed by the European Commission.

This could have major implications for farmers whose agri-environment schemes expire in 2014.

It would also affect the rural development funds under axis 1 and 3 now delivered by Defra in the regions. An announcement on further grant schemes using the funds remaining is due at the end of November.

After the summer recess the EU Parliament’s Agriculture Committee drew up a timetable which included a committee vote on the CAP reform package in November. But the committee has now agreed to vote on the package on January 23 and 24, with the full EU Parliament plenary vote unlikely to take place until March.

Only then will final negotiations between MEPs, EU Ministers and the European Commission begin, with some Brussels sources predicting an eleventh-hour agreement towards the end of the Irish presidency at the end of June 2013.

Maeve Whyte, Director of the UK farming unions’ office in Brussels said ongoing disagreements about the proposals to ‘green’ the CAP also contributed to the ‘inevitable’ delays.

MEPs don’t want to agree on anything until after the budget is agreed – that might be on November 22nd (or more likely the night of Sunday 25th November, assuming the summit overruns).

If member states agree to cut the CAP during the budget negotiations, some MEPs are likely to call for some big changes to the Commissions’ proposals for reform.

NFU senior CAP and international affairs adviser Gail Soutar said a delay until 2015 would not affect Pillar One direct support payments as legislation is in place to allow for the current SPS to roll on, on an annual basis. But it is ‘not so straight forward’ for the Second Pillar rural development schemes as the current rural development programme ends on December 31 2013.

Gail Soutar warns “if there is no new rural development regulation agreed, or transitional rules put in place that rolls on the current programme, then farmers whose agri-environment commitments come to an end post 31st December 2013 will have no alternative support schemes to apply for when their existing commitments end. Essentially those farmers fall into a policy hiatus,” she said.

She said there are 5,000 farmers in England alone whose agri-environment agreements come to an end in 2014.

The NFU has written to Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos calling for action on transitional rules.