Farming Free to shape its future - Beckett

by 5m Editor
16 February 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Farmers will be better off and free from excessive bureaucracy to shape their own future under new reforms just announced, Secretary of State Margaret Beckett said today.

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Speaking to the National Union of Farmers' annual meeting a few days after setting out her CAP reforms in England including a new flat-rate Single Farm Payment from 2005, Mrs Beckett said she took her decision on the grounds of fairness, simplicity and public acceptability.

Mrs Beckett said:

"I want to ensure that English farming is as competitive and productive as possible. That means reconnecting farmers with their markets, working with the industry to help it be fit for that purpose, and recognising that it has a unique role and value with regard to the environment and landscape.

"These are ambitions we share with farmers, and which are at the heart of our Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food.

"Decoupling - breaking the old link between production and subsidy - is the real prize. It will enable the industry to shape its own future, unhampered by excessive bureaucracy, freeing farmers to cut costs by making rational business decisions based on what the market, rather than subsidies dictate.

"This is expected to lead to improvements in farm incomes provided that farmers take up the opportunities which decoupling opens up.

"The deal we have struck will be a massive simplification of the current system - instead of a plethora of subsidy schemes, farmers will have just one scheme, one form, one deadline and one cheque.

Decoupling will reduce the negative environmental impacts of farming caused by incentives to over-produce, and by making subsidy dependent on compliance with a range of environmental standards, said Mrs Beckett.

Mrs Beckett praised the contribution by the NFU to the CAP reform process, paying tribute to retiring NFU President Ben Gill:

"Ben will be sadly missed, he has made a great contribution over the last six years. His successor arrives at a very interesting time, and I look forward to continuing the close and constructive working relationship that I enjoyed with Ben."

Mrs Beckett also announced that she is seeking EU approval for Defra's Entry Level agri-environment scheme to be rolled-out across England in 2005.

She also encouraged farmers to engage with the government's consultation on its long-term strategy to deal with bovine TB.

"If scientific evidence suggests that badger culling would be effective, I will want to consider if we can develop a practical and cost-effective policy," she said.

Mrs Beckett also said Defra will be looking at ways of encouraging farmers to adopt measures to ensure that less of the pollutants from agriculture find their way into our water. Defra will consult on an action plan including a broad range of options.

Source: Defra - 16th February 2004

5m Editor