Countryside organisations are pitching into the great debate on how to spend England’s agricultural budget in the next decade. Defra is consulting the public on how to spend the money-about £2 billion a year-made available through reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2015 (www.gov.uk/defra). This follows an agreement with the European Commission that each country in the UK can agree its own budget instead of being forced to adopt a ‘one-size-fits- all’ approach.

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Arguments are mainly focusing on what proportion of farmers’ direct payments (a maximum of 15%) should be transferred into agrienvironment and rural-development schemes-earlier this year, Defra Secretary Owen Paterson indicated that it might be the whole lot, a move that was praised by the RSPB, but less enthusiastically received by the NFU and CLA.

‘Farmers in England will be severely disadvantaged if modulation is at 15%, which is not in alignment with our European neighbours,’ comments deputy CLA president Henry Robinson. ‘This announcement fails to recognise that agriculture underpins the rural economy and taking money away from this sector will restrict its ability to become more efficient through greater investment.’

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