EP Report on the future CAP: a step in the right political direction

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Today, the Agricultural committee of the European Parliament adopted the report prepared by MEP Herbert Dorfmann (IT, EPP) on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy. This report is a clear call for a strong common policy framework at EU level, aiming to « secure farmers’ income and more effectively meet the expectations of society as a whole ». The committee emphasizes the needs to secure the direct relation between the EU co-legislators and the beneficiaries – the farmers – and not transferring most of the first pillar management to the Member States.

Securing the direct link between the EU and its farmers, would address to a large extent the concerns expressed by Farm Europe following the presentation, in November 2017, of the Communication on the future of the CAP and the new delivery mechanism by the European Commission.

This would be the guarantee that all farmers are treated equally on the same market, even with an appropriate level of flexibility, for example with maybe different agronomic measures in the details, but with guarantees that these measures have an equal level of ambition to a EU baseline.

European agriculture is facing common challenges that could only be tackled effectively if Europe stands together, especially when it comes to environmental issues. Excess level of subsidiarity and flexibility, the fragmentation of the policy framework, together with a reduced level of ambition when it comes to the CAP budget, are all elements that could transform the EU agricultural market into a battlefield. Such a trend, which has been rejected by the agricultural committee, would only accelerate the on-going restructuration process of EU agriculture – meaning less farmers – and raise serious question marks on the capacity to deliver when it comes to reducing the environmental footprint of EU food systems.The MEPs adopted instead a balanced approach, calling for a « reasonable level of flexibility within a strong common framework of EU rules, basic standards, intervention tools, controls and financial allocations agreed at EU level by the co-legislator to guarantee a level playing field for farmers ».

Furthermore, Farm Europe welcomes the request of the MEPs to maintain the budget allocation of the CAP in constant prices – this is key to improve and achieve an in-depth revision of the EU policy framework toward a greater resilience of EU farms and enhanced sustainability as requested by the MEPs. Farm Europe is also pleased by COMAGRI’s call for “coherence and complementarity” between the two CAP pillars (Direct payment and Rural development), with a clear baseline of environmental measures in the 1st pillar – driving a common dynamic all across Europe – and tools to foster further green initiatives in the 2nd pillar.

Additionally, to cope with market uncertainty, the risk management toolbox should become a central feature in the next CAP, as rightly underlined by the agricultural committee. Nevertheless, this should not reduce the responsibility of EU institutions when it comes to crisis management. A strong and effective set of tools at EU level should be kept and strengthen with a proper financial reserve, in order to secure and intervene in case of major crisis such as the ones faced recently by the milk sector. This financial reserve should be able to: (i) strengthen and enhance the risk management toolbox, which was modernized recently via the CAP Omnibus regulation, (ii) trigger when appropriate innovative market measures such as the reduction scheme deployed in 2016 for the milk sector. Complementarity tools for sectorial programmes should be adopted in parallel for the sectors that are in need of new dynamics or facing specific challenges. And, last but not least, the capacity of market observatories should be developed even further in order to speed up policy decisions at EU level in case of serious market disturbance.

Such a common policy framework would offer a truly European added value, and set the foundations of a farming sector that is able to deliver environmental and economic performance.