The CAP Health Check proposals have been trailed and leaked so extensively that the package contained few suprises. As Gareth Morgan, the head of agriculture policy at RSPB commented, 'The CAP is long past its use-by date and the Commission should be creating a policy fit for 21st century challenges.'
A few points are worth picking out. A new definition of 'farmer' is to be introduced to prevent companies with marginal farming interests from claiming subsidy. It will be interesting to see how 'mud on the boots' is translated into Community legal jargon.
The idea of capping payments has been dropped as anticipated. However, there will be higher compulsory modulation levels for larger farms: an extra 3 per cent for farms receiving €100,000 a year, 6 per cent for those receiving more than €200,000 and 9 per cent for those receiving more than €300,000. Predictably, this hasn't gone down too well in Britain.
The so-called Article 68 measures are a concern given that they are intended to buy off French opposition. These will allow member states to skim another 10 per cent off Single Farm Payments to pay for certain strategic programmes. The chances are that some countries will use this money for targeted, production-linked subsidies rather than environmental programmes.
On the positive side, the money could be used for crop insurance schemes and animal disease programmes. But it is also available to help milk, sheep and beef producers in disadvantaged regions like France's Massif Central. As a French farmer was saying on television earlier this week without such help there would be no sheep left in France. Would this be a national catastrophe?