Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Ms Maria Rosander
4 MARCH 2009
Q500 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Is there
any evidence of abandonment taking place?
Ms Rosander: Yes, of course.
Q501 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: I have
spent quite a lot of time in Jamtland.
Ms Rosander: That area specifically is
not that badly affected, I think. It has a lot of dairy production
there and that has actually increased.
Q502 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: I seem
to have experienced a lot of families seeing their children leave
and not want to continue farming but simply use their homes as
Ms Rosander: Yes, of course, that is
a problem. It is difficult to live that far away. The infrastructure
is good but it still takes quite a long time to go to bigger cities
or abroad. In Jamtland dairy production is okay compared to the
counties around, but, of course, there are big signs of land abandonment.
When I looked at the figures of how much LFA area we had at the
time of our accession, which was in 1995, it was 59 per cent and
now it is 48 per cent, so for me who did not know anything I was
like, "Oh, that is strange, that it is such a smaller part
now", but that is because
Q503 Chairman: It has gone out of production.
Should maybe be "out of production"?
Ms Rosander: Yes, and production as such
has diminished more in those counties than we are producing in
the southern regions which are not LFAs and then, of course, the
percentage is diminishing. However, I do not think it is quicker
in Sweden than in any other European country. I think it is about
the same pace.
Q504 Viscount Ullswater: Could you explain
to us where you see the LFA payment fitting into the other payments
that are given to agriculture, particularly the single farm payment,
and then any other agri-environment scheme which might be available
under Pillar 2?
Ms Rosander: Of course, I got your questions
ahead and I saw that one and I asked myself if it was a trick
Q505 Chairman: We never do that! Shame
Ms Rosander: To me that also is easy.
That is why I asked myself, "Is there something else that
they would like me to answer on this?", because the single
farm payment is an income support, keeping up the income for producers.
The agri-environmental schemes are for producing environmental
benefits that society wants and the LFA is for compensating for
natural handicaps, so there should not be any environmental link
to the LFA. We should not be paying LFA to receive environmental
benefits. It is just compensation for natural handicaps. That
is how I understood the question but maybe you were looking for
Q506 Viscount Ullswater: I suppose you
have answered it in your earlier answers in that you see the LFA
payment as being essential for keeping agriculture going in those
designated areas. With the single farm payment, obviously, the
amount of agricultural activity could drop because it is not tied
so much to production or to farming income.
Ms Rosander: No. It will probably keep
some sort of landscape open since we have cross-compliance but
you would not see grazing animals when travelling in the countryside,
so the LFA helps bring some sort of societal benefit.
Q507 Viscount Ullswater: It is more of
a landscape protection payment, do you think? It is to maintain
Ms Rosander: That is what it leads to
but the intention with the payment is to compensate for not having
enough income, which makes this whole system very confusing, but
we should not get into that. We were paying historically for good
production in some regions and now we are paying on the other
hand for those who do not have the possibility to produce. It
is a confusing system, looking at the whole agricultural policy.
Q508 Chairman: Is it possible to say
that it is not an income support system?
Ms Rosander: Yes. That is not the purpose
of the payment.
Q509 Chairman: It is not the purpose
but that is the effect, is it not?
Ms Rosander: Yes, that is so, I guess,
with all the subsidies or supports you get. It helps your income.
Chairman: A number of your colleagues,
I have to say, see it foremost and almost entirely as an income
Lord Cameron of Dillington: But they
do not necessarily admit it.
Q510 Chairman: They do by the time we
have finished with them!
Ms Rosander: That is clear. That is what
we say with the decoupled payments, with the farm payments. It
is not supposed to contribute to production but, of course, it
does because it is a base. It helps me, having that secure base
in my production. It helps me to make my business decisions in
the rest of the company, so, of course, it is helping my income
but it is not an income support as such. In trying to reform the
whole political area, which we would like to do in Sweden, I think
it is necessary to try to keep the focus on what we are supposed
to achieve with this support and, I guess, the other supports,
trying to keep the objectives separate and clear in order to try
to reform them and see what it is that society wants and then
operate to that.
Q511 Chairman: It is the benefits that
society gets, is it not?
Ms Rosander: Yes. It is a very theoretical
discussion but, of course, it is an income support at the same
Q512 Earl of Arran: Changing the subject
to criteria and in particular to designation criteria, you have
already got biophysical criteria which are being discussed at
the moment. In your opinion, are there additional or alternative
designation criteria that should be being discussed at the same
Ms Rosander: Now we are getting into
the questions where I do not have a lot of answers to give you;
I am sorryor am I going too fast now?
Q513 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Question
Ms Rosander: Yessorry, I do have
an answer to your question.
Earl of Arran: Good; I was getting worried.
Q514 Chairman: And the answer is "Maybe"!
Ms Rosander: I will answer the other
ones as well. It is just that we have commissioned an assignment
to the Board of Agriculture to look into these issues more, so
we do not have any definite answers. As I started saying, we are
positive about these biophysical criteria that the Commission
is discussing with us and we think we should try using them as
a basis for delimitation on natural handicap payments. The only
extra criteria we have discussed are small and irregular fields,
and that is linked to what I said before about the forests, that
we have a lot of forests in this area which makes it difficult
to have larger fields brought together, so you have a little field
here and there due to the physical shape of the land, and that
is what we are talking about. Our experts think that this is included
in the criteria as suggested by the Commission anyway, so it is
not anything that we are pushing for or suggesting should be brought
in. That is what is specific to Sweden, and for Finland probably
Q515 Earl of Arran: Are your farmers
keen to retain the status quo or are they pushing for a change
in the LFAs?
Ms Rosander: They are quite reasonable,
actually, and I think they see the need for a change to make it
clearer that this is a payment to compensate for natural handicaps
and not for socio-economic reasons. We have other policy areas
to deal with that. At the same time they know that we are probably
not going to lose out that much in the total area.
Q516 Earl of Arran: So you are keen on
their behalf to come to the negotiating table?
Ms Rosander: "Keen" is a very positive
word. We have not had a discussion with them. I think they are
reasonable in thinking that we have to look into this. I think
it is possible to look out for their interests as well. I think
it is other Member States which have bigger issues with their
national farming associations. I do not think we will lose out
that much on agricultural land in the review.
Q517 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Which
states do you think will have most difficultiesoff the
Ms Rosander: Off the record. (There followed
a discussion off the record)
Q518 Viscount Ullswater: You have agreed
to some harmonisation of overarching criteria set at EU level.
Ms Rosander: Yes, absolutely.
Q519 Viscount Ullswater: But your definition
of "small and irregular fields" you think should be
left to the flexibility that a Member State might be able to include.
Is that the way you look at it?
Ms Rosander: No. What my experts have
told me is that they believe that this is covered by the biophysical
criteria proposed by the Commission so there is no need for us
to propose other criteria. The concerns for Sweden, looking to
the designation criteria, are pretty much covered. Coming to the
next question of the eligibility criteria, there we see the need
for more national flexibility.