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Weight added to the case for abolition.

Hardly a month passes without a reminder of the all-pervasive influence of "Europe".

As farmers come to terms with another EU inspired set of regulations, the Working at Height Regulations, which, however well intentioned, will add to costs ( even working on the edge of a hole is now "working at height" ( there comes news of an imaginative attempt to square commercial reality with restrictive rules. Some UK dairy farmers have sold millions of litres of milk quota to Italy. The transfer forms were rejected in the UK as predicted. In Italy they elicited the mild response that they "did not quite conform to EU law". The Italian producers sense an opportunity and prepare to fight their case. It is hard to see them succeeding, as cross-border transfers would undermine the fundamentals of the quota regime, but the attempt may add weight to calls for abolition of quotas.

Denmark now favours abolition. Its dairy farmers plan to invest pounds 1bn in quota between now and 2105 as that is the only way in which they can expand. If a decision to end quotas in, say, 2015 when the current quota scheme expires, were made in the 2008 review of the Common Agricultural Policy, that would allow them to plan for an unrestricted market. The EU Commission has turned its mind to the review, though it is careful to call the process a "CAP Health Check", no doubt because of the way the 2003 Mid-Term Review turned into a major revamp. An old friend, "capping", is on the list again. It may be suggested that no farmer should receive more than 300,000 euros (roughly pounds 200,000). The UK and Germany have vetoed capping in the past because of their larger farms, but the pill might be sugared with a proposal that money saved should not stay with the EU but should be made available for rural development in the member state concerned. The UK might find it expedient not to make a fuss this time, just as the Prime Minister did with the EU budget in December, despite his "staunch" pledges to defend the UK rebate.

Ironically in view of the disaster at the Rural Payments Agency, there is a suggestion that member states may be encouraged to follow the English and German examples and adopt regional single payments rather than a system based on past production. Cuts in cereals intervention prices and the end of set aside are also predicted, as is some compulsory EU modulation, at or above the planned 5%, to boost the EU funds available for rural development ( bad news for UK farmers if they are already suffering a high rate of UK modulation to fund stewardship etc. Defra is grappling with that now.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 15, 2006
Words:458
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