An unholy alliance of Socialists and Conservatives in the European Parliament today dealt a massive blow to hopes of a greener EU farm policy focussed on sustainable family farms, says West Midlands MEP and farmer Phil Bennion. 

Green-fieldsAfter a series of votes in Strasbourg on the next spending round for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Lib Dem MEP, who farms near Tamworth, said: "The votes today were disappointing, even disastrous. This is a real setback to hopes for a greener and more efficient European farm policy.
"Vested interests from right and left voted for protectionist market intervention, which could see a return to the bad old days of grain mountains and wine lakes - unless the Council of Ministers can stop it at the trialogue stage.
"We criticised the Agriculture Committee for a lack of vision, but the Parliament today has compounded their errors. This is going to lead to the abandonment of good environmental projects by farmers in Britain and across Europe and a return to protectionism. 
"The loss of flexibility on greening payments is very disappointing, and could push Environmental Schemes out of the greening agenda. This is surprising, as it wasn't even controversial that they should be in.
"If Environmental Schemes are not allowed as 'Pillar 1' greening, farmers in these schemes will have to take their environmental focus areas out of production in addition to other areas already taken out. 
"Also, the draft EU financial framework has slashed the 'Pillar 2' budget, so environmental schemes cannot be fully funded from that area either.
"The UK government has promised farmers that they can end their contracts if they are not compatible with the new Greening regime. So the effect will be that lots of really good environmental schemes are ploughed up and replaced, if at all, with the Commission's weak and wasteful version of Greening measures.
"At least we voted to get rid of the potentially illegal double payments for greening measures and also reinstated full transparency on public payments made to individual farmers. But there was not much other good news for farmers today."