§ Lord Faulkner of Worcester
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What progress has been made on the implementation of Agenda 2000: A New Direction for Agriculture. [HL270]
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman)
On 7 December, my right honourable friend the Minister of 7WA Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced a package of measures which will radically redirect support for agriculture in fulfilment of pledges made in our manifesto and subsequently. The announcement focused on one particular aspect—the Rural Development Regulation.
Our decisions in implementing options under all of the sectors of the Agenda 2000 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy will have an important impact upon the future direction of the agricultural industry.
Under the beef regime, we have decided to use the National Envelope to top up payments to suckler cow producers in the year 2000; the position for future years will be reviewed, in particular to consider the possibility of introducing area-based payments on permanent pasture used for low-density beef production in England.
We will retain the 90-head limit on beef special premium claims and introduce a UK-wide national ceiling against which the need for scale-back will be assessed; both these decisions will be reviewed in the course of the year 2000.
We have also decided to implement the cut in suckler cow premium quota by reducing producers' holdings of quota on a flat-rate basis (probably at around 4 per cent); producers who have reduced production below their quota level as a result of participation in an EU-funded extensification scheme or who can show that the imposition of the cut would materially jeopardise the success of a development plan in progress on 1 January 2000 may apply for exemption from this quota cut.
We will increase from the year 2000 onwards the milk quota limit for dairy producers claiming suckler cow premium, from 120,000 kilograms to 180,000 kilograms.
We will apply the less restrictive two-tier model for extensification payments additional to payments under the beef special premium and suckler cow premium schemes; and assess eligibility for extensification payments on cattle numbers on producers' holdings on six dates each year, notified to producers retrospectively; this method of assessment will be reviewed as and when our cattle database becomes fully operational, when it includes movement details for older animals.
In relation to the dairy regime, we will be extending the quota leasing deadline from 31 December to 31 March with effect from the next quota year. At the same time, the deadline for processing permanent transfers of quota via a lease of land—though not for other transfers—is being advanced to 1 March in order to ensure that the Intervention Board meets its deadline on the levy calculation. There was no widespread support for the other discretionary provisions set out in the consultation papers and these changes will not be implemented.8WA
CAP reforms agreed in Berlin also gave powers for member states to attach specific environmental conditions to agricultural support payments if they consider this to be appropriate. Our consultation exercise sought views on whether to introduce such conditions. Some relevant considerations in deciding whether to do so are: comprehensibility to farmers; ease of enforcement; environmental benefit; and extent of additional costs or regulatory burden for the generality of farmers.
We are still considering the responses to the England consultation on this issue. However, if following this consideration we identified possible cross-compliance measures, we would hold a further consultation exercise on any specific proposals before introducing them. Meanwhile, we will be retaining our existing cross-compliance measures which the UK has applied for some years, namely the current overgrazing condition in our livestock subsidy regimes and the management conditions for set-aside land.