CAP ‘omnibus’ measures constitute a key step forward

There seems to have been universal welcome for this week’s adoption of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Omnibus Regulations by the European Parliament.

Let’s just hope that all of this positive sentiment can be converted into a tangible benefit for farmers on the ground.

Specifically, action must be taken to ensure that only active farmers, in other words those actually producing food, are made eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme in 2018 and beyond.

It’s time to root out backhand rental deals that allow land owners to secure support while, at the same time, doing very little to deserve it.

In fact, it’s time that conacre was done away with entirely and formal land rental or leasing arrangements made mandatory in its place.

Most of the farming organisations are claiming that the new CAP measures will go a long way to reduce the amount of red tape confronting farmers.

I’m all for this. But we need to see concrete evidence of what this means as soon as we get into 2018.

The same principle also holds, where tackling market volatility is concerned. Farmers can only be expected to pay into insurance schemes at those times when they are making money.

But there is also an onus on the European Commission, the food processors and the EU’s supermarkets to make contributions in kind.

We now know that intervention will only be used by the European Commission as a safety net measure of last resort for the farming industry.

It is also evident that Brussels is adept at making money from its intervention-related wheeling and dealing. Future profits generated from such activities must be pushed back in the direction of primary producers.

And, if Brussels is keen to establish some form of income protection scheme for farmers, then the related fund that will be established should be boosted by any margins made by Brussels, courtesy of its market-related activities.

We also need to see the future proofing of all the benefits delivered by the new omnibus measures within the next CAP reform process and beyond. The recent CAP White Paper, published by Europe’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, made no direct reference to the omnibus changes.

So it’s important for this matter to be rectified and that the upcoming reform discussions take full cognisance of this reality.

The other issue which the omnibus measures seem to skirt around is the power of the supermarkets.

Farmers deserve a fair price for the food they produce. And it’s up to Brussels to ensure that such a basic requirement is built into all future CAP reform measures.