Europe should rely less on direct farming subsidies, Spelman to tell Oxford Farming Conference

Europe should rely less on direct farming subsidies and reward farmers more for their environmental efforts and the other work they do to enhance the countryside, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman will say today.

Spelman, who is speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference today, will say to growers and farmers that Europe's new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), currently being negotiated and to be in place from 2014, needs to be fundamentally different.

Spelman will say that the European Commission’s plans for CAP reform should be more ambitious, particularly in its approach to direct subsidies and in emphasising payments for farmers who deliver public goods.

"Now is the time to make very significant progress towards reducing our reliance on direct payments. Rising global demand for food and rising food prices make it possible to reduce subsidies and plan for their abolition.

"Furthermore we should encourage innovation in the industry, and provide help with environmental measures and combating climate change. Our taxpayers have every right to expect other public goods for the subsidies they pay. Pillar 2 of the CAP does exactly that – which is why we want to see it taking a greater share of finite resources."

Spelman is also expected to reveal a change in the Government’s approach to food and farming - with more power being handed to local organisations and local people.

"Over the coming years we need to increase the competitiveness of the whole UK food chain to help secure an environmentally sustainable and healthy supply of food.

"Underlying all of this is the power shift from the centre towards local organisations - putting local people back in charge – a classic example of what we mean by Big Society.

"This shift will change the way the department works. We want to see a greater degree of trust and collaboration when developing and delivering policy. This will allow you as an industry to shape your own destiny."

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