Paterson: resisting a return to butter mountains

An outline agreement on the reform of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was reached late on Tuesday night between EU farm ministers.

Negotiations were held at the European Council in Luxembourg over two days. Their agreement will now go to Brussels where it will be discussed by the agriculture committee of the European Parliament with the Irish presidency of the EU in order to secure a final deal expected late on Wednesday.

UK agriculture minister Owen Paterson who was at the talks and rejected one of the four CAP regulations said: “Some member states have been pressing to take CAP back to the dark days of butter mountains and wine lakes, with costly interventions in the market. I have resisted this every step of the way. That’s why Germany and the UK were unable to support one of the regulations, which manages the EU food and agriculture market.”

He added that clarity has been achieved in terms of regional implementation of CAP. “Farmers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can be reassured that their governments have the complete freedom to deliver a CAP tailored to their needs and circumstances,” said Paterson. “This successful outcome is a result of working as a united force with all devolved administrations and respecting regional farming priorities. I am pleased we have been able to agree changes needed for all four countries.”

Meanwhile, Spanish producer-exporters through their association Fepex have expressed concern that the agreement to leave the decision to individual member states on whether to include fresh produce producers in the direct payment scheme will lead to unfair competition.

There has also been criticism from NFU leader Peter Kendall who says DEFRA's CAP reform plans will damage British farming.