08/02/2013 16:08

Brecon CAP meeting
From left, FUW Brecon and Radnor county executive officer Aled Jones, William Powell, Brian Bowen, Mark Williams, Roger Williams and FUW director of policy Nick Fenwick

Concerns and priorities over the impact of CAP reform on Welsh farmers were highlighted during a meeting at Builth Wells between Farmers' Union of Wales officials and staff and Liberal Democrat Westminster and Cardiff politicians.


At the meeting, Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams and Mid and West Wales AM William Powell - both FUW members - and Ceredigion MP Mark Williams were told the majority of the CAP amendments proposed by the EU's agriculture committee were to be welcomed and would significantly reduce the adverse impact of the original proposals put forward by the EC.


Afterwards Breconshire farmer Brian Bowen, vice chairman of the FUW's livestock, wool and marts committee, said: "The MEPs certainly seem to understand agriculture and recognise the need to maintain EU food security far more than the commission and, as such, they have agreed amendments which would significantly reduce the impact of the original proposals for Welsh farmers."


Mr Bowen said that while the FUW objected to linking "greening" rules to direct payments, the amendments agreed by MEPs were a massive improvement which would lessen the adverse impacts of the original proposals on Wales' environment and farm businesses.


"Ironically, the commission's greening proposals would have acted as a disincentive for farmers to enter agri-environment schemes and made farms less self-sufficient.


"The amendments go some way towards reintroducing the original concept of encouraging farms to lessen their environmental impact and their input costs as a part of greening, whereas the original commission proposals would severely limit a farm's ability to grow its own crops or plant cover crops to help wildlife."


However, Mr Bowen warned that the devil would be in the detail of the final regulations which are expected to be finalised over the coming months pending agreement over the EU budget.


Mr Bowen also emphasised the FUW's major concerns over the proposed liberalisation of modulation arrangements. "We understand that the UK Government is seeking to be able to modulate up to 20% of pillar 1 monies in order to pay for pillar 2 underfunding without any obligation to co-fund such monies.


"This would move us further away from the principle of having a more common policy across the EU which underpins the current negotiations. If we want more money for Pillar 2 it should come from securing a fairer share of the EU budget - we currently gets a fraction of what we should get and that is what we should be fighting for."


Other issues discussed included the CAP budgetary allocation for Wales and the move to a flat rate payment, the potential loss of Welsh farmers' meat levies to England and the Financial Service Authority's report into the mis-selling of rate swap products to small businesses by their banks.


"We know there are big changes coming with the move to flat rate payments and we need to ensure that we avoid disruption to any particular sector," said Mr Bowen.


"There seems little doubt that there will be many winners and losers. The worries over what system is finally adopted will compound concerns over the impact that the terrible weather, collapse in lamb prices and loss of upland support has had on farm incomes.


"Nevertheless, the MEPs' amendments to the draft CAP regulations, if respected, may provide a number of mechanisms by which to help the Welsh industry."