Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has welcomed that Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan is seeking the views of MEPs on the Agriculture Committee regarding Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) simplification.
The MEP said that since becoming Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has identified simplification of the CAP as one of his top priorities and Mr Nicholson welcomed that he has invited MEPs to feed in views relating to the regions and farmers they represent.
He added: “This shows the Commissioner’s commitment to delivering on his pledge to both cut red tape for the agricultural industry and identify what aspects of agricultural policy should be left to Member States to decide.
“I fully support the Commissioner’s simplification agenda and want to see results and improvements which benefit Northern Ireland’s farmers, the wider agri-food industry and countryside. Simplifying the CAP should also benefit Member States and regions by reducing the cost of administration and the fear of being penalised as a result of the sheer complexity of the policy.
“Throughout the CAP reform process I and others repeatedly warned the previous Agriculture Commissioner that the proposals, especially those regarding greening, were far too complex and would be unworkable at farm level - these concerns were ignored,” said Mr Nicholson.
“As the package is being rolled out on the ground it is clear just how unworkable major aspects of the reformed CAP actually are. The additional red tape plus the slow drip feed of important information to Member States and in turn to farmers shows that even Commission officials have struggled to get to grips with the level of complexity.
“MEPs have been asked to provide the Commissioner with preliminary views regarding CAP simplification, for example in relation to greening or inspections, by 13 March - this exercise is however an on-going process.”
Mr Nicholson concluded: “Whilst I have spoken with many local farmers and growers on this issue I am keen to have as much information relating to the situation in Northern Ireland as possible and would welcome further input which can then be submitted to the Commissioner for consideration.
“The best way to submit ideas to me is via email; firstname.lastname@example.org It is also important that DARD and Defra proactively feed suggestions into the Commissioner too as part of this process in the hope that simplification can be delivered and we can begin to make improvements.
“Although the Commissioner has stressed that the basic principles of the new CAP regime cannot be reopened we have an important opportunity to highlight ways of simplifying the package and cutting the burden of red tape on farmers – let’s make the most of it.”