Monday, 10 November 2008

Preparing for the CAP health check vote

This week is pretty much about preparing for next week’s crucial vote in Strasbourg on the CAP health check. As per usual hundreds of amendments have gone down to the Santos reports that were adopted by the Agriculture Committee last month for plenary - all of which we need to sift through to enable us to put together a voting list and to make sure we vote against anything that could hamper Scotland’s farmers, our farming industry and our rural communities.

We’ve resubmitted a number of our amendments that didn’t get through the Agriculture Committee and been working closely with Scottish Government civil servants in Scotland House in Brussels and in Edinburgh to ensure the Scottish Government’s vision of agricultural reform is supported by the EP in the vote next week.

Our amendments largely concern proposals to delete progressive modulation as well as those deleting decoupling for sheep and beef payments and retaining the current cross compliance regime as a tool in the fight against wildlife crime by including it in the Wild Birds Directive and the Flora and Fauna Directive, which was of particular concern to the Scottish Government.

With the amount of amendments compromises will undoubtedly have to be sought among the political groups so I await with interest to see what the final compromise package will look like before next week’s vote.

Regardless of the outcome of next week, its clear that the health check debate has moved on and the focus of discussions is very much on the future shape of European agriculture post-2013 where everything will be on the negotiating table.

One of Brussels’s many think tanks, Notre Europe, has published its contribution to the post-2013 debate with its “CAP reform beyond 2013: An idea for a longer view”. It defines a number of general principles such as defining targeting instruments on clear objectives and guaranteeing social return for public money and replacing assistance by incentives. Among its many suggestions it recommends the need to make agriculture more competitive by adapting instruments and regulations to that purpose, replacing the current complex and cost burden payment schemes with a simplified and smaller one in which payments are strictly linked to three basic levels of service – basic husbandry of the countryside preserving farming landscapes, territorial services, environmental sensitive measures – maintaining public intervention to guarantee a floor price (or “safety net”) restricted to exceptional circumstances , which should be WTO compatible as well as sharing financial responsibility between the EU and Member States according to the subsidiarity principle and limiting the EU’s domain of competence to the provision of European public goods.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be working closely with Scotland’s farming and rural interests as well as the Scottish Government to work out Scotland’s contribution to this vital debate and the kind of future European agricultural policy that Scotland would like to see. Scotland has a key role to play in shaping Europe’s future agriculture policy and at the same time ensure that Scotland’s vision of agriculture is at the very heart of the discussions now beginning to get underway in Brussels.

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