CAP Simplification on the agenda

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The simplification of the CAP was the focus of a hearing in the European Parliament this week.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson used the opportunity to outline the difficulties being encountered by farmers locally as the reformed package is rolled out at farm level.

Officials from the European Commission and national and regional governments, including Andrew Elliott, former head of area based schemes in DARD, plus farmers’ representatives from across the EU discussed past experience and ways to reduce the burden of red-tape on the agricultural industry with MEPs from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Speaking after the event, Mr Nicholson said: “We are continuing to see problems being encountered as the complex new CAP is implemented, with delays in information for national governments and a lack of clarity for farmers posing challenges for the industry.

“Simplification means different things to different people; the European Commission, the European Parliament and to farmers. During the negotiations MEPs made many suggestions as to how the package could be simplified, however many of these were opposed by Member States in Council and the final outcome was more complex and bureaucratic that what it replaced – this is extremely frustrating given the impact of the additional complexity on farmers across Northern Ireland.”

The complexity of the application form and the greening measures plus the need to streamline inspections were some of the issues debated.

Mr Nicholson concluded: “I welcome Commissioner Hogan’s on-going drive to simplify the CAP for governments and farmers alike, we must make the most of this initiative. However genuine simplification cannot be achieved without the European Commission changing the basic regulation - the Commission must be prepared to change this where necessary to deliver real improvements for the industry.”