2020 was the year that both the EU Parliament and Council agreed their positions on the 2018 Commission proposal for the CAP post-2020. These consolidated positions were needed to start trilogues to get to the final legislation that steers the agricultural sector. The Portuguese presidency of the EU Council plans to reach an agreement with the European Parliament’s negotiators by April 2021.
The EU’s next seven-year budget agreed in July was an essential step towards consolidating the positions on the CAP, as they are dependent on the financial means being made available for rural areas. The farming budget for 2021-2027 will amount to €366 billion, an amount lower than the previous CAP budget.
There are still some outstanding issues being discussed in the trilogues, namely how much flexibility member states will be given and how they will integrate the EU’s new Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Nonetheless, ELO welcomes the Commission initiative to send recommendations to each Member State as regards to their strategic plan for the CAP and a guiding list of potential agricultural practices that eco-schemes could support. It is an extensive list of practices that could be considered, including organic farming, carbon farming, agroforestry, and high nature value farming.
The eco-scheme is an example of how the CAP will deliver on the Green Deal targets for 2030, which include the expansion of organic farming to 25% of agricultural land, the earmarking 10% of farmland for nature-friendly landscapes, 20% reduction in fertilizer use and the 50% reduction on the use and risk of pesticides and antimicrobials.
Due to the delay of the agreement on the CAP post-2020, ELO welcomed the transitional arrangements agreed at the end of 2020, that ensure the continuity of support to landowners and land managers until the end of 2022.
During 2021, ELO will continue to use its well-established structures, take part in the relevant Civil Dialogue Groups and organise several meetings to cement a strong agriculture policy that allows for a modern sector ready for the coming challenges.
The Rural Coalition, comprised of CEJA, CEPF, CIC, Copa and Cogeca, ELO, FACE, and UECBV published a joint statement on “Empowering rural areas in the CAP post-2020”. In its statement, the Coalition asks present and future EU decisionmakers to keep a high level of ambition for rural development in the next CAP, starting with an adequate budget.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
The year was marked by discussions on the CAP beyond 2020, with the European Commission presenting their legislative proposals in June 2018. The legislative pack included legal texts on the CAP strategic plans, on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, and on common organisation of the markets. The most radical change in the proposals concerns the new decentralised delivery model which devolves a lot of control to the Member States.
ELO welcomed the move towards performance, considering the new delivery model an opportunity to develop a different culture for policy design and implementation, both between the EU and Member States and between authorities and the land managers on the ground. The delivery of meaningful results is best achieved if the engagement of the parties is based on trust and accountability, rather than on mere compliance with a set of rules. This can be achieved by ensuring the involvement of farmers and landowners in the decision making process and by optimizing procedures through digitalization. This was stated in a joint paper with WWF that was presented before the Commission’s legislative proposals.
However, mechanisms need to be in place to ensure sensible subsidiarity and that Member States have the administrative capacity necessary to execute the new Strategic Plans.
ELO was also in favour of giving a more prominent role to innovation and technology due to its simplification potential but also to transform the tensions between agriculture and environment into synergies, especially in face of climate change. This reform needs to allow the modernisation of the sector, which is already happening in other parts of the world.
In 2019, ELO will continue to engage in discussions on the future of the CAP, in particular, its debates among the Members States and in the European Parliament, where for the first time the environment committee has been granted shared competence over some parts of the CAP file.
ELO will continue to use its well-established structures, take part in the relevant Civil Dialogue Groups and will continue to organise several meetings to cement a strong agriculture policy that allows for a modern sector ready for the upcoming challenges. If Europe is serious about its ambitions, especially those related to climate change and biodiversity, it needs to properly fund the CAP when the time comes to decide on its budget.
An agreement on the next long-term budget in 2019, likely ahead of the European elections in May, would provide for a seamless transition between the current long-term budget (2014-2020) and the new one and would ensure predictability and continuity of funding to the benefit of all.
Finally, it is important to recognise the environmental and social facets of the CAP while acknowledging that it is an economic policy. Placing artificial limits on direct payments will discourage successful countryside entrepreneurs from increasing their business above a certain threshold, and runs counter to the desire for increased environmental performance; those who can deliver sustainable production and public benefits from private land management should be properly rewarded. This goes against the spirit of economic success and will negatively impact young or new farmers from entering the sector if Europe is seen to limit their ambition.