Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Liz Lynne consulted with farmers at the Staffordshire County Show on Thursday on proposed changes to the EU Common Agricultural Policy to be debated at the European Parliament in Strasbourg next week (Tuesday 3 June).
Overall, the reforms are concerned with "decoupling" payments to farms away from production - instead making a single payment based on the size of the farm - and shifting payments from other parts of the CAP budget to pay for rural development. Liz took the time to discuss these proposals with farmers visiting the show with her agricultural adviser Philip Bennion.
Liz Lynne said:
"The European Liberal Democrats agree with the National Farmers Union that in principle these reforms are welcome. The devil, as always, is in the detail. In addition, we are concerned about some compromise proposals that would see some payments to farms linked to production, and others linked to the size of the farm. This would, in effect, lead to two separate funding systems leading to twice the bureaucracy, twice the confusion and would preserve the market distortions that payments linked to production has resulted in."
"I also have concerns about proposals to reduce payments to larger farms disproportionately to smaller farms. I would not want to see larger, efficient farms unduly penalised."
The proposals also call for payments to be linked to farmers' compliance with environmental, food safety, animal welfare, health and occupational safety standards.
"Linking payment with good practice is obviously desirable, but it is important that the compliance criteria is objective and not widely open to interpretation. Furthermore, I would not want to see small infringements leading to draconian sanctions being imposed as all that would achieve is putting farmers out of business. Proportionality and fairness is vital."