European Farm Law Reform Raked by Green Groups

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 23, 2003 (ENS) - The European Commission has released draft legislation for major reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including proposals to make farm support more environmentally responsive.

Neither farmers nor environmental groups were satisfied with the proposal, released yesterday. "Everybody in Europe would be worse off," said agriculture association Copa-Cogeca. "Only the EU's major trading partners would benefit."

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Farm, Upper Teesdale, England (Photo courtesy Freefoto)
Green NGOs described the proposals as "greenwash," complaining of significant watering down since last summer.

EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said, "This reform has one objective: Making sense of farm subsidies for our farmers, consumers and taxpayers. We need reforms, and we need to decide now. Our plans will give farmers a clear perspective to plan ahead."

Farmers will no longer be forced to produce at a loss in order to receive support, said Fischler. "They will have the opportunity to maximize their income on the market. Studies show that farm incomes would improve with the reforms. A wait and see approach would be damaging for farmers' interests. It would widen the gap between the farm policy and society's expectations."

Society is ready to support farming, said the commissioner, "provided farmers give people what they want - safe food, animal welfare and a healthy environment."

Key environment related elements of the package are:

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Tractor works a French farm (Photo courtesy Réseau Agriculture)
BirdLife International, the UK based global bird conservation organization, said the package "represents a major climb down for Commissioner Fischler whose commitment to reform had been widely welcomed by environmentalists, welfare and social sector groups."

Cross compliance - the conditions a farmer has to meet to receive the money - is "weak," says BirdLife, "and limited to merely not breaking the law. This measure could have delivered higher environmental standards across all farmland and is a missed opportunity."

Commenting on the new package, Sue Armstrong Brown, senior Agriculture Officer, BirdLife International said "This deal is bad for everyone, farmers and environmentalists alike.Without real commitment to rural development, we will continue to see massive declines in farmland wildlife. Its only redeeming feature, and this is also under threat, is the decoupling of farm support from productivity."

Read the the CAP legislative proposal at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/agriculture/mtr/memo_en.pdf

See CAP questions and answers by clicking here.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}