Farmers in plea for changes to Common Agricultural Policy

 Bridport News

WEST Dorset farmers have appealed to MP Oliver Letwin in a last ditch plea to get changes in the proposed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.

They say reforms are unfairly penalising UK farmers and at a time when food demand is growing worldwide.

Victor Crutchley, west Dorset NFU chairman, led a small number of farmers to meet Mr Letwin to ask for his help to persuade the government that it should not increase the modulation tax on English farmers in the new 2015 CAP scheme.

The Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson had a short period of consultation before announcing the amount of money that will be moved from direct payments to the so called 'pillar two payments' for rural and other environmental schemes.

The government is understood to favour taking the maximum permitted amount of 15 per cent off the direct payments.

West Dorset NFU secretary, Paul Bennett said: "Modulation, which is a taxation of farmers' direct CAP payments, is very unpopular with the industry. No other EU country is considering taking so much money from the direct payment system as our government.

"It puts us at a considerable financial disadvantage to our European competitors."

Mr Letwin agreed to raise the possibility of a minimum initial modulation level with a review date for 2017. The NFU has provided figures via Defra that show the current modulated rate was sufficient to finance the ending of the commitments such as the Environmental Stewardship Schemes and to provide monies for replacement schemes.

Mr Bennett added: "At a time when we face considerable fluctuations in food supplies and the demands of a growing world population, it is increasingly important that there should be consistent and fair measures to encourage more responsible agricultural production."