CAP reform must be fair to England, Norfolk farmers told

Farmers' leader Peter Kendall today called for fair treatment for England as part of Europe's reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

He told about 400 delegates at the Norfolk Farming Conference that the NFU would press for fair and equal treatment in any reform package.

Mr Kendall, who was re-elected for a fourth tem as president of the National Farmers' Union yesterday, said that Europe's reform of the CAP was not about 'protecting the status quo.'

'The NFU was not going to defend the CAP's budget at all costs. We've deliberately said that however the budget is decided across Europe, let's make sure that we're treated fairly in England and Wales and in the UK as a whole,' he added.

Speaking at the John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park, he said that it was not politically realistic to argue that the agricultural budget must be maintained at a time when spending on schools, hospitals and the Armed Forces was under such pressure.

'This would be a pretty poor message. We can't be saying that we must have this money otherwise we'll all be going to hell in a handcart,' said Mr Kendall, who was first elected in 2006 and will now serve another two-year term.

'We know across government that they are massive cuts are to be made and if we end with 20 to 30per cent being made, we'll have to talk that on the cheek as long as everyone else gets it as well.'

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He said that the NFU had four key reform objectives for the new CAP, which was likely to run from late 2014.

It must be

As simple as possible

As common as possible

Maintains market focus

And does not hinder competitiveness

Mr Kendall said that Europe's plans to take as seven per cent of land out of production as 'ecological features,' did not make sense. He also questioned how the Rural Payments Agency, which administers European schemes on Defra's behalf in England, would cope with the increased bureaucratic challenges.