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Policy to make life easier for farmers

Any reform of the Common Agricultural Policy must clarify its rules, says a draft resolution adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week.

MEPs want to make farmers' lives easier by cutting red tape in payment applications, simplifying rules on the electronic identification of animals and providing better information to farmers, for example with a helpdesk phone line in each EU Member State.

The resolution is part of a wider debate on how best to reshape EU farm policy in time for the EU's next multi-annual budgeting period, which starts in 2013.

Less red tape in applying for direct payments

MEPS believe farmers must have access to workable systems that allow them easily and without needless bureaucracy to submit applications for direct farm payments. To simplify the single payment scheme, the obligation to provide the same detailed information on an annual basis should be abolished, they say.

At the same time, the definition of agricultural activity should be reviewed to ensure that claimants who are not active farmers are not eligible. The Common Agricultural Policy needs to be simpler, but also "more transparent and equitable", argue MEPs.

Fines – transparent and proportionate

Any fines levied on farmers who make errors in their payment claims should match the infringement, and penalties should not be imposed for minor mistakes, particularly where the errors are not the farmer's fault, says Parliament. Rules on compliance with EU rules on public health, animal and plant health, environmental protection and animal welfare (known as "cross-compliance") should take into account farm size and be easy to understand. Controls could be reduced or replaced by random checks, if there have only been a few infringements in recent years.

Instead, more help and advice through efficient advisory tools, such as a telephone helpline or internet, would help prevent infringements and reduce need for inspections, say MEPs.

The resolution also calls on the Commission to remove unnecessary requirements in animal identification and to harmonise the very different national regulations on this matter. MEPs also call for a three-year amnesty on cross-compliance penalties relating to electronic identification of sheep and goats, to give farmers time to get accustomed to this new and complex technology.

Source: European Parliament

Natalie Berkhout

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