Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Crop Protection Association (A39)


  The Crop Protection Association is the trade body representing the 47 companies that manufacture or distribute crop protection products for agriculture, horticulture, forestry, home garden and other uses in the United Kingdom. Its aim is to promote recognition of the role and benefits of crop protection, including biotechnology, and in particular its contribution to the production of affordable, high quality food within a viable and sustainable rural economy.


  As part of the EU, the UK is ultimately bound by decisions taken in Brussels. The present debate therefore needs to take place within the context of Europe particularly the reform of the CAP.

  Europe provides a single market of 375 million people that should be used to provide our farmers with the full range of trading opportunities. Currently, the CAP injects £3 billion a year into the countryside. Changes in the regime will have to be approached with sensitivity if they are to avoid significant adverse effects. However, although the production subsidies are part of the present CAP the public increasingly questions them. They are costly and fail in the delivery of environmental incentives that the public and politicians wish to be available to farmers and landowners.

  The Crop Protection Association believes that:

    —  The mid-term review of the Agenda 2000 reform of the CAP should build on the "second pillar" of rural development with a greater share of this coming to the UK;

    —  The Government should use the agri-monetary compensation mechanism to bring UK producers up to the level of those competing with our farmers in the home market;

    —  Every effort should be made to maintain an open market approach;

    —  The Government, in conjunction with the European Parliament, should develop an EU-wide safety net of support that could be used if production supports decline and world markets continue to be volatile;

    —  The enlargement of the EU must be managed in such a way that the CAP is not used to restructure the economies of the new members at the expense of the rural economies of the existing ones.

  Any changes in the CAP and Europe's WTO commitments must encourage a viable UK agriculture. It will be essential to ensure robust transitional arrangements. Full payment of agro-monetary compensation will be required to benefit cereal and sugar producers. The key will be in dealing with the mid-term review of CAP Rural Development and Regional Policy in Europe—it is vital that UK farmers are given a fairer share of EU funds. In the short-term the greatest determinant of the competitive position of UK farming will be the value of sterling. This will become critical if the UK were to enter the "eurozone" as a full member. Should this happen at current rates a further downsizing of farming in the UK may be inevitable. On balance the implementation of the Euro access the current members will probably make UK agriculture more competitive.

  UK farmers must remain competitive as trade liberalisation occurs. The enlargement of the EU and the next WTO round must take care of the interests of UK farmers. Any revision of the sugar regime under the European Commission's "Everything but Arms" proposals must take full account of their impact on the EU sugar market.

  Additionally, farmers must not be subjected to new regulations before these have been determined to be proportional to the risks. Regulations should only be necessary either as positive incentives or where voluntary schemes have failed. Care must be taken not to "gold-plate" European regulations and directives or to anticipate changes in regulations before they apply to other EU members. The cost of all regulation designed to improve public safety must be met from central funds and not be passed to individual producers.


  We believe that profitable and competitive farming should meet the environmental goals expected by the general public. We support all campaigns that encourage farmers and growers to use resources responsibly together with voluntary initiatives such as those which reduce energy consumption in the glasshouse sector and which lessen the impacts of crop protection products. The measures contained in the voluntary package of measures agreed with the Government in place of a pesticide tax should have a substantial role in reducing the environmental impacts of crop protection and protecting biodiversity. They must be given enough time to show that they are delivering the environmental benefits that the Government is seeking.

  We believe that monies available from the EU Rural Development funds should be used by Government to assist the initiatives contained in the voluntary package of measures in place of a pesticide tax. It is clear that greater awareness of environmental issues and biodiversity is an added requirement expected of UK farmers. As such it is a regional and environmental issue. Training and other technology processes could be funded in this way as a "pump priming" mechanism.

  More farmers should be encouraged to participate in conservation schemes. Increased funding of the stewardship schemes will help but simpler schemes that target whole-farm conservation practices will be particularly useful in the arable sector. The adoption of conservation headlands has the potential to reverse many of the adverse trends in wildlife that have occurred in the past four decades due to changes in production techniques.

  We believe that the Government should continue to be equitable in its application of new wildlife and SSSI protection laws so that farmers can continue to gain reasonable returns from designated countryside. This will be payment for their labours rather than compensation for income foregone. The creation of new SSSIs should be sympathetic to farming interests or provide adequate compensation for any negative impacts on the farm business.

  The Government should not extend cross-compliance rules on modulation requirements unless these are similarly applied elsewhere in the EU. Any monies taken from production payments should be used to fund measures that "conserve" the countryside sympathetically. Equally we believe that there must be consistent and proportionate implementation of European Directives on environment and conservation so that UK farmers are not disadvantaged. The Rural Development Programme should have continued growth in funding from the Government with specific targets such as those to assist with diversification and re-training. The greatest challenge will be to stimulate local leadership and encourage local initiatives. The RDAs will have a crucial role in this, although they require greater participation from rural members and organisations with rural concerns.


  The opportunities and difficulties faced by agriculture from possible reductions in production subsidies will vary according to the time-scale of any changes that are made. With the current economic difficulties facing the industry, the sudden removal of production subsidies would cause many businesses to fail. This is most marked in the livestock sectors but it would be similar, albeit to a lesser extent, in the arable sector. However, it should be noted that some sectors do not at present receive such production subsidies. These include pigs and most parts of the horticultural sector. For these latter groups the transition away from production subsidies would not be traumatic.

  In the UK we would expect this change to result in larger, more specialised farms that would be growing commodity crops such as cereals and pulses for a world market. Although all of the EU countries would be making, one presumes, identical changes at the same time this would not be true of other major producers. The USA would still be in a dominant position for some crops and their growers would probably still be in receipt of faintly camouflaged production subsidies.

  An example is often quoted to show that a rapid transition away from production subsidies can be made. This is where the New Zealand government moved away from supports to the livestock industries. Although this was successful in the long-term, it resulted in a move to larger sheep and beef units and a high level of diversification into new crops. Some of the smaller family farms were lost. There is no exact read-over to the UK situation because production payments were not generally replaced by environmental payments.

  In the UK any change away from production payments would have to be dove-tailed to a range of well-designed schemes that would allow a flow of environmental payments to the same farms with reduced incomes from the loss of the former payments. Such a transition is more than likely to result in deficiencies or inequalities between the old and new systems. Equally, any such environmental schemes and payments would rely on careful designs and well conceived objectives. In the current debate there is often a lack of focus on the environmental remediation or improvements that are being sought within the farming landscape.

  We believe that this transition would be challenging at the UK level and extremely difficult across the whole EU community due to the massive range in farming types and local conditions.

17 December 2001

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