NFU warns proposed greening measures 'could be the atomic bomb for horticulture'

The greening measures in the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform proposals "could be the atomic bomb for horticulture", NFU horticulture and potatoes board chief executive Hayley Campbell-Gibbons warned at last month's Fruit Focus.

Under proposals devised by the European Commission and currently before the European Parliament, the CAP budget will be frozen until 2020 at 2013 levels. "But the most contentious part is that 30 per cent should be ring-fenced for greening," said Campbell-Gibbons.

NFU senior international affairs adviser Gail Soutar, who has negotiated on the union's behalf in Brussels, said: "The costs and benefits of the proposals (see box) have not been modelled or quantified. We are angry about this. What is the benefit of the three-crop rule? They won't say."

The NFU has put the likely cost to UK agriculture of implementing the greening measures at EUR33 per hectare, leading to a 4.8 per cent fall in farm income. It also estimates that fully implementing the proposed ecological focus areas would require taking 300,000ha of UK arable land out of production.

"They want to ensure long-term sustainability - they say that's what society expects of farming - but there is a lack of recognition of the food security question," Soutar added.

English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow said: "It's incredible against the background of everyone saying we need to produce more food. It's been so badly thought out and will mean higher food prices, which goes against all we are trying to achieve."

British Growers Association chief executive James Hallett also derided the proposals, calling them "a complete bugger's muddle".

Legislation to implement the proposals could be passed next year, though this is widely viewed as unlikely, said Soutar. She added: "We are still at stage one and have a long way to go - we haven't really started the fight yet."

Single farm payments from the EU are thought to represent seven to 10 per cent of income to the UK horticulture sector.

Greening measures Main requirements

The two main requirements for growers under the proposed greening measures are:

- To leave at least seven per cent of land as "ecological focus areas". This could include hedges, ponds, buffer strips and, potentially, ground underneath fruit trees.

- To produce three or more crops. The definition of "crop" for this purpose has not been set out but remains "fundamental", said Campbell-Gibbons.

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