EU farm proposals "too limited"
IMPORTANT changes being proposed today to reform Europe's controversial Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have already come under attack from two of England's leading conservation bodies on the day they are launched.
Both the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the proposals - published in the form of a 'Health Check' for European farming - say the proposals will not help farming communities or wildlife.
The CAP has long been a source of bitter in-fighting between various national interest groups - and today's review calls for massive subsidy cuts for major landowners, including the Queen - but country folk had hoped that they would take a massive step forward in boosting "green" farming" and protecting wildlife.
These hopes seem to have been dashed, if the RSPB view is to be widely accepted. Says the society in a detailed statement: "The 'Health Check' of Europe's farm policies is too limited to improve the fortunes of farmland wildlife or rural communities.
"The review proposes only limited extra funds for green farming measures and rural development, dodges the loss of set-aside land and ignores evidence that countries are flouting requirements to enforce good environmental practice."
The RSPB and BirdLife International fear that large subsidies paid to farmers will continue to be heavily criticized if those payments are not justified by improvements to landscapes and reversals of farmland bird declines, which the health check could bring about.
The health check must be much more radical
Gareth Morgan - RSPB
Gareth Morgan, Head of Agriculture Policy at the RSPB, said: "The health check must be much more radical. It recognizes the role farming can play in tackling climate change, water pollution and wildlife declines but says little about how farmers can do these things or how their work can be funded."
The CPRE also issued a critical statement which read: "Many much loved landscapes are threatened with decline and need substantial new funding if they are not to be lost."
Ian Woodhurst, CPRE's farming campaigner said: "Unless farmers are properly rewarded for the countryside management they undertake the countryside we love will suffer. Research published by Natural England has shown that a worrying 20% of our landscapes are showing serious signs of neglect. We need to find resources to arrest this decline and create the healthy environment the public demands.
"CPRE considers that this could boost food production too. By maintaining distinctive and productive local landscapes we can reinforce the connection between high quality countryside and enjoying high quality local foods."