MEPs critical of CAP reform proposals

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MEPs from across the political spectrum have criticised the proposed reforms to the EU's flagship Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Debating the CAP on 12 March 2013 there was particular concern over two aspects of the reform package - direct payments and market support.

MEPs have said that direct payments should go only to "active farmers" rather than land owners, which could sometimes include airports or sports clubs.

Irish socialist MEP Paul Murphy claimed that under the current system, land owned by the British Royal family received half a million euros a year in CAP funding.

Double payments

There are also calls for more transparency in the payments system, and new environmental protection measures to account for 30% of the direct payments.

British Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies said that taxpayers had a right to know who benefits from CAP funding and where their money goes.

He also pointed out that a number of MEPs benefitted directly from CAP funding, and urged these colleagues to declare their interests and abstain from the vote.

A move by the Agriculture Committee to waive rules banning "double payments" to farmers was widely opposed.

The parliament's negotiator on the direct payments, Portuguese socialist MEP Luis Capoulas Santos, said a return to double payments was "legally unacceptable".

Double payments means that farmers who are already gaining extra payments for environmentally friendly activities should be entitled to keep them - on top of the money they will get from the direct payment - but without doing any more to earn the cash.

In other words, to be paid twice for the same thing.

Milk lakes

There was also concern about the aspects of the CAP reform referring to market support, by which farmers are offered guaranteed prices and other forms of market intervention when global prices - such as for milk or wheat - fall.

Ulster Unionist and Conservative MEP Jim Nicholson warned that such intervention would lead to over-supply and a return to so-called "milk lakes and butter mountains".

Ukip MEP Stuart Agnew criticised the focus on environmental measures, arguing that "farmers are expected to solve non-existent problems of man-made global warming".

He added that "greening" the CAP would reduce food supply instead of "changing the world's weather".

The reform process is made up of four key pieces of legislation, that were voted on during the daily voting session on 13 March 2013. MEPs voted on over 1,000 amendments during the voting process.

After the vote, further negotiations with the Council of Ministers will continue, to try to reach a common position, with the new CAP expected to enter into force in 2015.

Useful links.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

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