1.1 The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is in the final stages of EU negotiation. We will continue to work closely with other Member States, the European Commission and European Parliament on the remaining detail. Ahead of that, it is important that we consider what the new CAP means for England. This will ensure we are well prepared for implementation in 2015. It will also ensure we have a CAP that supports English farming and helps deliver the Government’s priorities.
1.2 Many scheme rules are set out in the European regulations and we have no choice other than to follow them. However there are aspects where we have options on how we implement elements of CAP nationally. On some of these the Government already has a clear view on the way forward, or has already had to make decisions due to the long lead time for implementing aspects of the schemes or the need for farmers to have certainty. In these cases the document sets out what we have decided. In other areas we are seeking views in order to make the best informed choices.
1.3 There are some constraints that affect the timetable for consultation. We need to notify the Commission formally by 31 December 2013 on our position on whether we wish to transfer funds from the CAP budget for direct payments (Pillar 1) to fund rural development (Pillar 2), which is part of this consultation. On some issues, we are consulting before the final detail has emerged from the European regulations. Our approach is to make the consultation as comprehensive as possible to help interested parties to reach an informed view on interrelated issues and to minimise the need for separate consultations.
1.4 This consultation is an integral part of a much broader approach to engagement with interested parties. Prior to publication of this document, Ministers and officials have been engaging closely with stakeholders to consider what reform of the CAP means in England. We will continue to do so. There are some detailed issues on which it would not be sensible to reach a view until we have more information from the European Commission about the rules which will apply. We will engage closely with stakeholders on these issues as the details from the EU processes emerge.
Update, 26 November: It has come to our attention that the final three questions in the consultation document, relating to evidence, have not been listed through the on-line response system. We ask that anyone who wishes to respond to these questions does so by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or letter. If you have any queries please contact us.