The next phase in the painful process to reform the Common Agriculture Policy begins next week.
On Wednesday (13 March), for the first time, all Members of the European Parliament will have a chance to vote on their vision for the future CAP. This vision will form their negotiating position before the final deal is thrashed out between them, the European Commission and Environment Ministers from 27 Member States.
Read on to find out how you can make your views heard.
Following the disappointment of the EU Budget Deal secured last month (see here), we desperately need the MEPs to agree a vision that delivers more from the environment and better use of tax payers' money.
Unfortunately, as I reported here, the Agriculture Committee did not cover themselves in glory when they had their say in January. They seemed intent on taking the CAP backwards, not forwards.
The plenary vote this month is the opportunity (the only one in this reform round) to right these wrongs and we, along with organisations across the EU, are working hard to explain a) how important CAP is to all MEPs, many of whom just don't follow the detail of the reform process at all and b) what they can and must do to ensure their negotiating is environmentally sound.
But we need help to convince MEPs to do this.
This is why we have joined forces with 12 environmental NGOs in the UK to support a campaign to UK MEPs to encourage them to vote the right way next week.
You can take part in our campaign here.
After all, we voted for these politicians and it seems only fair to let them know what we, as constituents, think.
Corncrake calling in hay meadow. South Uist, Western Isles, Scotland. Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
If you agree, you can help ask MEPs to ensure they vote for the following measures designed to clean up the CAP:
1) Attach meaningful 'greening' requirements to direct payments. These are essentially conditions on the subsidies that all farmers receive. We are asking for a modest percentage, but no less than 7%, of farms to be managed for environmental benefit. Given how much of European land is farmed and the huge declines in farmland wildlife that Europe has experienced over the past four decades, if feels right to find a little space for nature.
2) Don't pay farmers twice for putting in place environmental measures. At a time of economic austerity, and heightened scrutiny of public expenditure, it is offensive to argue that we should use public money to pay for the same thing twice - and yet this is what those MEPs in the Agriculture Committee voted for in January.
3) Improving the ambition of existing requirements which are attached to direct payments and rejecting any attempt to water them down. This means ensuring such payments are dependant on meeting all existing legal requirements, including the Water Framework Directive, and linked to basic good land management such as the protection of carbon rich soils and wetlands. It seems irrational that anyone could argue against being paid on the condition that they obey the law, but there we go, we are talking about the CAP.
4) Targeted support for High Nature Value farming systems, which will include many upland and crofting systems here in the UK. These systems are fantastically rich in wildlife, store carbon in their soils and help keep our water clean and yet the current CAP fails to support them adequately so much so many are facing a stark choice between intensifying or abandoning farming altogether. The CAP needs to provide a third choice.
If so, please tell your MEP this week.
Very pleased to contact my MEPs but need e-mail addresses as link above, does not seem to be functioning
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654