Efra report examines the 'Greening' proposals for the CAP

The Efra Committee inquiry into the Commission's proposals for a greening payment under Pillar 1 for the reform of the CAP began on 3 November 2011 and published its findings in a report, Greening the Common Agricultural Policy, on 1 June 2012.

The inquiry sought to investigate the potential impact on agriculture in the UK of the Commission’s proposal for a greening payment under Pillar 1 of the CAP. Stakeholders were invited to submit evidence on the proposals’, with particular consideration for the following: environmental outcomes, the impact on food production, agricultural competitiveness, the degree of simplification achieved and how a greening payment would interact with existing agri-environment schemes. It collated written evidence from 35 organisations and oral evidence at two hearings from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman and representatives from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), Leeds and Oxford Universities, Natural England, RSPB, and Wildlife Trusts.

The inquiry report advises that establishing the same environmental requirements across the EU for farmers to qualify for a significant proportion of direct payments will likely fail to deliver the desired outcomes and potentially have an adverse effect on the competitive position of farmers and compromise food security. It stresses the need to take into account the diversity of EU agricultural and environmental conditions and advocates that the Commission should develop a less rigid approach that enables Member States to design and implement environmental measures at a local level.

In terms of the three mandatory elements of the greening payment, the report notes that only the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) has the potential to be environmentally beneficial, stressing though that further detail is needed to assess the extent of these benefits. The report anticipates however that the retention of permanent grasslands and crop diversification will likely have unintended and perverse consequences for both the UK environment and competitiveness. It states that the retention of permanent pastures could unintentionally act as an incentive for the removal of environmentally important semi-natural grassland. On crop diversification, it argues that it would demand high costs and deliver minimal environmental benefits for the UK.

The report further highlights concerns that the effectiveness of existing agri-environment schemes under Pillar 2 could be negatively affected by a greening payment under Pillar 1. It urges the UK government to develop an approach that complements its existing system of schemes, suggesting that agri-environment commitments should be considered when determining the criteria for meeting the proposed greening requirements.


08 Jun 2012