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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
EU ministers split over farm reform
Harvesting in a EU farm
The 40-year-old CAP has fallen into disrepute
European ministers meeting in Brussels are deeply divided over radical proposals to reform the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Last week, the European Commission approved plans to cut the link between the amount of aid given to farmers and the amount of grain, milk or meat they produce.

Both Britain and Germany believe the plans are a good basis for discussion, although they would like to see the massive overall budget for agriculture fall.

French farmers stage earlier protest
Some farmers have reacted with fury
But other countries, including France and Spain, attacked the proposals, and said they would be bad for farmers.

The British Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, has welcomed the proposed reforms, but said she wished they had been more radical.

Mrs Beckett said plans to end the link between aid given to farmers and what they produced were bold and imaginative.

"They would at a stroke remove many of the incentives to overproduction with the consequent risks of environmental damage which exist in the current system," she said.

Opposition

But other countries, led by France, strongly disagree. French Agriculture Minister Herve Gaymard said the proposals took no account of the huge social impact they would have.

European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler
Fischler: CAP needs complete facelift
He repeated French arguments that the EU has already agreed not to change the CAP in any substantial way until 2006.

Spanish Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete spoke of a "hazardous experiment" with farmers and their incomes.

"The reforms on the scale being proposed are neither, pressing nor essential," he added.

The commissioner in charge of agriculture, Franz Fischler, also wants to cap payments to large farms and invest more money in food safety and environmentally-friendly rural development programmes.

His plan will hit farmers in France, Spain, Italy and Greece hardest as they have the largest farming sectors.

Many farmers say the plans could destroy their livelihoods.

See also:

10 Jul 02 | Business
10 Jul 02 | Europe
26 Jun 02 | Europe
30 Jan 02 | Europe
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