Farmers need to keep an eye on the EU’s latest round of Common Agricultural Policy reform in case Brexit does not end up happening, says Lancashire organic dairy farmer Tom Rigby.
Brexit is not currently my most immediate concern.
If there is one thing the last few months have taught me, it is that the weather still has the power to wreak far more havoc on future planning than politics.
The cumulative effect of an unusually dry summer following an exceptionally cold spring, long winter and wet autumn have totally depleted my forage stocks and reluctantly, I have had to sell all my in-calf heifers. More cows will probably follow.
I hope to still be in business next spring, but whether or not we will still be in the EU is less certain.
I do not accept the inevitability of Brexit and think it is worth keeping a close eye on the proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to be implemented in 2020, just in case they will apply to us.
The EU Commission says: ‘The one-size-fits-all approach will be replaced by a more flexible system, with greater freedom for EU countries to decide how best to meet common objectives while responding to the specific needs of their farmers and rural communities’.
Probably the biggest change will be the shift in emphasis from compliance and rules towards results and performance.
Each EU member state must carry out an extensive analysis of its specific needs and then draw up a CAP Strategic Plan, setting out how it proposes to target CAP funding to meet these needs, in line with the overall EU objectives, by establishing its own specific targets.
Every year, countries will submit a performance report to the Commission to show progress towards the targets which have been set based on specific result indicators.
Each country will have to ensure only genuine farmers receive income support and focus strongly on supporting small and medium-sized family farms and encouraging young farmers.
There will be a reduction of payments of over €60,000, with compulsory capping for payments above €100,000.
Tackling climate change is a main priority and 40 per cent of the CAP’s overall budget is expected to contribute to climate action.
I cannot see anything in the proposals Defra Secretary Michael Gove could disagree with, indeed I expect he would be more than happy to pass them off as his own.
Tom can be found tweeting at @tomrtwit