CAP has two ‘Pillars’: Pillar 1 and Pillar 2. They each have different amounts of money reserved for them and have different purposes. Part of the finance can be spent as the receiving country chooses as long as the criteria are followed; The other part must be spent on directed initiatives. There is a way to switch (or modulate) money between the two pillars.

Pillar 2 can be targeted to areas in need. It is more flexible than Pillar 1 and Dartmoor gains proportionally more benefits from it. Both have a strong role to play in solving Dartmoor’s challenges. The EU farming sector serves rural communities. Its role is not only to produce food but also to guarantee the survival of the countryside as a place to live, work and visit.

Pillar 1 – The Single Farm Payment

dartmoor-sheepThe Single Farm Payment is based on the hectarage of the farm. Farmers receive a guaranteed amount according to the size of their farms. They must keep the land in Good Environmental and Agricultural Condition (GEAC) and they must conform to food safety and animal welfare standards.

The old CAP Pillar 1 used to be dependent on production until 2003 – the more produced, the more the grant. This discouraged new thinking. Farmers were guaranteed money for repeating again and again what was not working. A car crash of an approach, made famous by British Leyland. Not a great model.

Sheep on Dartmoor dramatically illustrate the changing effects of Pillar 1 support. The UK entered the EU in 1972. The number of sheep on Dartmoor rocketed from 56,000 to over 200,000 thirty years later. The Single Farm Payment entered in 2003 and the number descended to 145,000 – a much more sustainable figure considering that in 1793 there were around 112,000.

The new approach stimulates innovation. Farmers win by diversifying and developing premium niche products that have high profit margins. This often involves producing less but making more money. Grass-fed beef, organic products, wilderness vacations, ‘foodie’ farm stays, traditional cider production from local orchards, space for “free range” children…even suggestions for transhumance: bringing lowland cattle up to the moors in the summer for fattening.

Pillar 2 – The Rural Development Policy

drystone-wall-dartmoorThe Rural Development Policy boosts competitiveness and environmental  management. Pillar 2 has four parts or axes. The axes have two main thrusts – improving competitiveness and rewarding environmental care.

Niche competitiveness reintroduces profit to farms on Dartmoor. Projects need investment and banks are reluctant. Orchards were ripped out years ago to follow the failed ‘intensive’ farming model. There is a growing demand for artisan cider brewed from traditional apple varieties. Both these facts create potential for long term small farm businesses using ancient husbandry skills. Try explaining small orchard apple tree growth to a bank. Try explaining love to a bank. Pillar 2 helps.

Environmental care is an essential substitute for aspects of traditional husbandry that are no longer profitable.  The agri-environment axis says ‘look, we know that wire fencing is cheaper but here’s some extra money to repair those drystone walls. We love them’. The visitors love them. The locals love them. And there is a secret here. Farmers love the countryside too. They care.

Climate change has only underlined Dartmoor’s value to the nation – recognised long ago in 1951 by the creation of the National Park. Peat is a major carbon capture mechanism. The moors store water and filter it phenomenally cheaper than mechanical processes. Sustainable firewood is a carbon-efficient resource from the high moors – where hard wood trees are too wind-shaken to be useful for timber.
The Rural Development Policy is a major supporter in these areas. Without it, investment would be minimal. But how much of a sustainable synthesis can it be with CAP trending downwards?