MPs committee rejects EC’s proposed farm rules

Commission's measures would be even more complex than the current system, warns EFRA

Wheat grown in East Anglia near Tattingstone, England. Photograph: Getty Images

The MPs environment, food and rural affairs (EFRA) committee has rejected the European Commission’s (EC) proposed farm rules on farmers across Europe citing decline in food production and environmental concerns.

The EC proposes that 30 per cent of "direct payments" made to farmers under the common agricultural policy (CAP) would be conditional on compliance with three new "greening" measures.

Instead, the EFRA calls for the EU to set high-level objectives for the CAP that provide for flexibility to apply the right measures for local conditions through "decentralising" environmental protection under the CAP to member states.

Anne McIntosh, chair of EFRA committee, said:

As they currently stand, the commission’s proposals to green the CAP would hurt UK farmers, consumers and our countryside. They will reduce food security by taking land out of production and are likely to impact badly on our environment.

It’s a non-sense to think that farmers from Finland to Sicily should be tied to the same narrow prescriptive rules. One-size-fits all regulation cannot work across the range of environments found in Europe.

To enhance biodiversity and protect the environment farmers across the EU must be able manage their landscapes in ways tailored to local farming methods and ecological concerns. The commission’s approach will damage the natural environment and farming.

The committee concludes that the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) must ensure the balance of funding between mandatory and voluntary aspects of the CAP should not leave UK farmers at a competitive disadvantage relative to their counterparts in the rest of Europe.

MPs also warn that measures proposed by the commission would add costly bureaucracy and generate more errors in the system. EFRA also warns that the commission’s crop diversification measure would in the UK have perverse consequences that are far less environmentally beneficial than crop rotation.

McIntosh added:

Our report highlights the huge benefit that UK "agri-environment" schemes have brought to biodiversity, food production and the countryside. We can be proud of what UK farmers have achieved using these voluntary schemes that allow them to manage their land in ways that enhance biodiversity and food production, for example by encouraging pollinators. We have also urged Defra to ensure that the UK's tenant farmers should not be excluded from these schemes.