[Mr Mike Weir in the Chair] — Common Agricultural Policy

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 2:30 pm, 8th March 2012

I will come on to say a bit about that if time permits. I have personal reasons that relate to constituency interests—apologies for not mentioning it earlier but, as declared in the register, I farm two fields in partnership with my brother—for believing that tenant farmers in this country risk being in a very difficult position. I am very grateful to the Minister for having heard me out on my personal concerns in that regard.

During the course of compiling the report, the Minister told us that DEFRA would like direct payments to be phased out over the next financial period—in other words by 2020—and to end shortly thereafter. If DEFRA wishes to achieve that, we would like to see a plan to make farming in the European Union more competitive and less dependent on subsidy, otherwise the Department’s position does not seem credible and risks alienating farmers and weakening DEFRA’s influence in Brussels. From the evidence the Minister gave us, there seemed to be no new ideas on how to make UK farming more competitive. The Committee is not convinced by the Department’s arguments that rising prices for some commodities will necessarily deliver long-term improvements in farm incomes, for example, because of pressure from supermarkets on farmers.