Fischler hints at plans for single payment
FORDYCE MAXWELL RURAL AFFAIRS EDITOR
FRANZ Fischler, wise man, cancelled his date with the Oxford
farming conference this week.
Whatever official reason was given
for that decision by the European commissioner for agriculture, the most
probable political reason is that he did not want to be questioned about
his mid-term review plans for EU farm policy.
His original plans
took a buffeting last year, especially from the German/French backroom
agreement to retain common agricultural policy spending virtually as it is
until at least 2013.
But Fischler has been a European commissioner
for a long time and is intent on leaving a legacy.
intention of throwing in the towel, he has manoeuvred decoupling - the
separation of farm subsidy payments from production - and modulation -
diverting a percentage of farm subsidies to rural development - back on to
He plans to publish details of his latest proposals
this month. That is why he did not want to speak at Oxford or be asked
questions. Instead, judicious leaking of the proposals is coming from
Brussels, mainly centred on farmers in future getting a single annual
payment based in some way on their history of production payments.
That general proposal has had a broad welcome from farming
organisations. The snag is what period, or periods, in the past will be
used to decide the payment of the future.
Leaks from Fischler’s
department now suggest that the likely reference period will be based on
the average of a farmer’s subsidy payments for the years from 2000 to
That has set alarm bells ringing for sheep farmers. Last
year’s sheep annual premium of 20 (about #13) per eligible ewe was
"acceptable" said a spokesman for NFU Scotland, plus 1 per head more for
members of Quality Meat Scotland’s farm assurance scheme and another 7 for
farmers and crofters in the designated less favoured areas of hills, moors
But in 2000 and 2001 the sheep payments were barely
two-thirds of the 2002 level, making a simple, three-year average
Taking into account a national flock, at its lowest for
almost 20 years at 15 million partly because of the foot-and-mouth
epidemic, could also reduce the future single payment.
beef sector, there might be similar problems because in recent years while
both the beef special premium and the slaughter premium per head have
risen appreciably production has fallen.
In Scotland the suckler
cow herd is barely 490,000 compared with 502,000 three years ago and being
allowed to claim suckler cow premium on heifers up to 40 per cent of the
herd has further complicated the issue as well as reducing the total kill
of cattle in Scotland from more than 500,000 to an estimated 450,000 last
But leaks also suggest that changes, no matter what base is
used, are unlikely until 2007.