Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is being urged to negotiate over a crucial EU Council of Ministers position on whether future EU farm support payments to larger farms common in the Midlands and the UK will be capped.

PB farm biomass crop
Phil Bennion MEP is urging Tory Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to negotiate to stop larger farms losing out under changes to EU farm support payments.
He has previously stated that the types of payments should not continue under proposals for a revamped Common Agricultural Policy now reaching the final stages in Brussels.
But West Midlands Lib Dem MEP and farmer Phil Bennion has urged the British Minister to put aside his ‘doctrinnaire’ view on the ideal future policy and negotiate to prevent larger farms, which many British holdings are by EU standards, from losing out.
“The Commission made the initial proposal, which includes the idea of capping larger farms. Parliament is due to vote next week and is unfortunately likely to back the Commission proposal,” said Dr Bennion.
“There is no question that we need to reform the Common Agricultural Policy to encourage a more efficient and greener farming industry, but capping farm payments purely based on size would do the opposite.
“The very largest farmers have the advantages of economies of scale and a reduced payment is justified, but the proposal is to start reducing payments to farms of around 1000 acres, which is not unusual for a family farm in many parts of this region.
“The ALDE (Lib Dem) group of MEPs wants to see farms encouraged to be more efficient as well as more environmentally sustainable and this is a crude disincentive. It is good news the current proposals would not cut the 30% of payments which are linked to so-called ‘greening’ measures to all farms, including larger holdings.
“If EU member states with larger farms such as the UK are to overturn or modify the proposed cap, they will need to work together in the Council of Ministers to succeed.
“Germany is definitely a potential ally, with many larger farms especially in former East Germany who would be the biggest losers.
“If our own Minister fails to negotiate around the potential final positions, he will let our farmers down.
“The immediate task of the NFU is to ensure that Mr Paterson understands the scope of the final negotiations and fights for the best outcome for our farmers, rather than taking a dogmatic and isolated position, such as his recent remarks about scrapping Pillar 1 payments.”
The Irish presidency is determined to push through CAP reform during their term of office until the end of June.
ENDS
Note to agriculture correspondents: The compromise on Greening of Pillar 1 gave the Commissioner much of what he wanted, but crucially allowed for certified Environmental Schemes to be deemed greening by right, as long as they deliver the equivalent benefits. This should leave a workable solution for most farmers in England if Entry Level Stewardship is tweaked to fit these criteria. This would allow Higher Level Stewardship to continue under Pillar 2 without the problem of double funding. The ALDE (Liberal Democrat) group in the Parliament, including Phil Bennion MEP, pushed for a broader menu of greening measures from which farmers could choose, but these were only adopted as a basis for the certified schemes. 
Phil Bennion's arable farm in Staffordshire is 260 acres.