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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Euro farm deal 'disastrous' for UK
Sheep and lambs grazing
UK farmers fear the deal could result in them losing out

The details of the agreement between France and Germany on the future of European farm policy are still far from clear, but environmental groups in Britain fear it could sound the death knell for much-needed reforms.

It has always been clear that Jacques Chirac would strongly resist substantial change, as French farmers benefit greatly from the subsidies threatened by the reforms put forward in the summer by agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler.

But until now, the Germans have sided with countries, including the UK, urging a big shift of payments away from rewarding food production and towards greener methods of farming.


This is nothing short of disastrous for the environment, farmers and consumers

Phil Rothwell
RSPB
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's pact with Mr Chirac suggests he is now toning down this stance in return for a long-term promise that subsidies will be stabilised.

Thirteen British conservation groups have issued a joint statement expressing horror that the French and German leaders have stitched up a deal on farm spending to facilitate EU enlargement.

Phil Rothwell of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: "This is nothing short of disastrous for the environment, farmers and consumers.

"Chirac and Schroeder have shown their true colours as politicians who care more about the bottom line than about citizens and the environment."

Mr Rothwell said Britain must now lead the reform process,- otherwise we would continue to face declining wildlife, landscape losses and bankrupt farmers.

The National Farmers' Union is not commenting on the deal because its implications are so uncertain.

Rapid reforms

But if it does amount to a brake on EU-wide reforms, this will make farmers in Britain much more cautious about proposals expected from the government shortly, which map out a greener and more competitive future for British agriculture.

While many accept the need to rely more on market forces to determine the price they get for their produce, they are reluctant to see Britain moving faster along this road than our European partners.

Otherwise, they fear, farmers here will be put at a competitive disadvantage.

UK ministers insist they will continue to press for rapid reforms of EU farm policy in the coming months.

But their vision of an industry which serves the need of consumers and the environment may now be much more difficult to achieve.


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25 Oct 02 | Business
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