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We must prepare for change
FOUR months ago on October 12, the European Commission issued its draft proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Their statement marked the start of a long period of negotiation involving our unelected Brussels bureaucrats, the European Parliament and all 27 member states.
The target date for introducing the new package is January 1, 2014, but most see the following year as being the earliest possible commencement.
Whichever, the date will soon be upon us and some industry pundits have been reviewing progress which I can report to you:
• On examination the present proposals are not so much of a strategic reform but more of an elaboration of the present system.
The biggest change is to move onto an area-based system of payment but this is already in place in England.
There are three new concepts introduced – the “active farmer”, greening, and capping.
• The purpose of introducing an active farmer qualification is to exclude undeserving claimants; and this has apparently been prompted not by hobby farmers in this country but by German water companies and French railways, the latter of which has been claiming on all its embankments.
So the Commission has proposed that if the new Single Payment is less than five per cent of your total receipts from non-agricultural activities, then you will be excluded.
At first glance this could prove a problem for many farmers who have been encouraged to diversify into associated businesses which are not strictly agricultural.
You have only to look at contracting, food processing, and holiday accommodation to name but a few.
At this stage it is assumed the concept of the active farmer will survive but the definition might change and I wouldn’t advocate action at this time until we know a little more.
• The greening element is going to be compulsory for those claiming the basic payment and the idea is to have a common set of basic agri-environment measures applied to all EU farmers.
This could prove more difficult than it sounds when one looks at the vast range of farming types across Europe from the barren rocky hillsides of a Greek island to the monster cereal farms of Eastern Europe and back to the intensive market gardens of the lowlands.
What is emerging are three measures:
• There will be a demand for crop diversification where all claimants with more than 7.5 acres of arable will have to grow three different crops.
• Grassland that has been down for five years or more will be protected.
• Seven per cent of arable area is to be in a sort of old set aside regime.
• Capping is the last major thread in the proposed reform and should not affect anyone receiving £130,000 or less.
Above this figure there will be increasing volumes of money withheld and a cap so that no payment can be more than £200,000.
The challenge for our industry over the next couple of years is to try and meet, adjust and accommodate the changes that are to come.
Natural England has made a most interesting announcement that a capital grant scheme will open on March 1 targeting those projects which will improve water quality before it reaches the River Derwent.
It is a serious sum of money with 50 per cent grant available up to a maximum of £10,000 per project.
There are a wide range of priority works that would be considered and I list some of these below: Water troughs and pipework; Yard works for clean and dirty water separation; Resurfacing of gateways and tracks with associated fencing; Roofs for slurry and silage stores; Pesticide loading and wash down areas.
Applications can be made after March 1. Two meetings are planned in our area: February 22, 6.45pm, The Feathers Hotel, Helmsley, and February 29, 6.45pm, Cedar Barn, Pickering. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
•Beef prices surge In all sorts of ways such as the weather and the economy, what happens in the US is echoed here some months later.
On that basis I thought it worth reporting that their total cattle herd has dropped to its lowest level since 1952 and yet beef exports to places like Japan and South Korea have jumped by 22 per cent last year.
This has inevitably led to beef prices going up by 10 per cent in 2011 and forecast to leap a further five per cent this year.
While I am not advocating a price hike in the UK, I do think the absence of any cheap imports from North America will help at least maintain current market levels.
Forward 54 cattle, including five bulls and 13 OTMs, 924 sheep, including 154 ewes, medium steers to 186p,ALBosomworth, Thornton-le- Dale, ave 178.8p; heavy steers to 208p,CF Beal, Yedingham, ave 198.7p; light heifers to 192p,PNesom, Wilton, ave 174.4p; heavy heifers to 248p (£1,542)GIMarwood, Harome, ave 202p; heavy bulls to 210p (£1508), P Nesom, Wilton, ave 197.6p;OTMsteers 192p (£1,388) Cows to 168pPRobson, Lockton (£1214) ave 119.2p; standardhoggets to 197p (£74)DMHolmes, Lockton, ave 195.3p; mediumhoggets to 204p (£92)AMAvison, Black Bull, ave 195.6p; heavy hoggets to 206p (£99) A Scarborough, Tibthorpe, ave 186.2p; overweight hoggets to 189p (£106)IMTomlinson, Scawton, ave 178.2p; ewes £130CT Stonehouse, Brawby, ave £85.