When our CAP stakeholder group meets, sometimes we spend the time simply exchanging information and updating each other on developments. On other occasions we have meaty discussions on real and difficult policy issues. Yesterday was an example of the latter.
Among other things we had a good discussion about exemptions for small farmers. Under the Commission’s proposals, a small farmer or crofter who opted for the simplified Small Farmer Scheme would be exempt from the greening rules (as their payment would have no greening component) and from cross compliance penalties (though they would still be legally bound by, for example, sheep EID rules). Also anyone getting less than €5,000 per year would be exempt from minimum activity requirements.
One point of view is that exemptions like this are a bad thing – a principle is a principle, and arguably all farmers should have to follow the same rules.
Alternatively, a pragmatist might look at this as a risk management exercise. The exemptions, if adopted, could give rise to certain risks – land not being managed in the way we want, money being paid despite a low level of activity, and so on. The pragmatist might say that: if it’ll cost, say, £3 million in bureaucracy to get a 100 percent result; but you can cut the administration back to £2 million and still get a result on at least 98 percent of the budget and 95 percent of the land – thus releasing a million pounds to be used out in rural Scotland – then you should give it serious consideration.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that we’ve already departed from the principle of identical rules for every single farmer, in our quest to make the greening proposals more sensible.
We also had a presentation from the Defra lead negotiator for Pillar 2, followed by a good discussion. She is experienced in co-decision negotiations and gave us some useful pointers on working with the European Parliament. And my car passed its MOT. So all in all, a good day.