UK sees wide support for EU farm reform
LONDON - Britain has stiffened its commitment to radical cuts in European Union agricultural production subsidies, with backing from farmers, environment groups and consumer bodies.
Farm minister Margaret Beckett said yesterday the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had consulted the industry about its stance on EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform and won broad support.
\"It has been encouraging to receive so much widespread support for reform of the CAP. Views differ within and between sectors but there were few, if any, responses fundamentally opposed to reform,\" Beckett said in a statement.
European Commission plans for reform of the CAP centre on the production subsidies that have been widely blamed for creating the EU wine lakes and grain mountains of previous years.
But a recent Franco-German deal to curb farm spending until 2013 - later incorporated into the bloc\'s thinking on expansion to include 10 more countries as EU members - has removed the need for radical change, some say.
Britain believed the Commission\'s proposals on reform were on the right lines but did not go far enough, DEFRA said.
The proposal to break the link between production and aid payments won support from farming organisations, but farmers were worried about proposals to fund rural development by cutting existing payments.
\"The NFU (National Farmers Union) believed the proposal would take more money out of UK farming than it would get back and rejected a proposed 300,000-euro ceiling on subsidy payments to farmers,\" DEFRA said.
The consultation results come ahead of new British initiatives - to be announced on Thursday - which will call for deep reform of subsidy payments and set environmental targets for producers.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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