The debate on the CAP reform intensifies ahead of the Commission’s proposal

The revision of the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will formally start when the European Commission publishes its legislative proposal, expected in late May. This will be followed by discussions and amendments from the European Parliament and the Council of the EU until a final text is agreed. Nonetheless, the current discussion in the Council and Parliament on the Commission Communication of last November on the CAP reform already provides a basis for debate. As the Commission services consult each other and work towards finalising the text of the proposal in the coming weeks, European legislators are laying down their positions and key messages. IFOAM EU contributed to the discussion, with the release in April of the report with FiBL Towards a new public goods payment model for remunerating farmers under the CAP Post-2020.

The European Parliament is currently preparing its initiative report on the “Future of food and farming”. This non-legislative dossier, for which MEP Herbert Dorfmann is the rapporteur, is currently in the Parliament’s agricultural committee. The 1.300 amendments tabled on this short non-legislative draft report show the high level of interest in the Parliament on the CAP reform. One concern in the Parliament about the Commission’s idea to have a “New Delivery Model”, is that giving enhanced flexibility to Member States to set their own CAP objectives and carry out their own audits could fragment this European policy and the European agricultural market. Compared to the Commission, the Parliament seems to favour a limited increase in flexibility to define national CAP strategic plans, within a single European set of tools to choose from, as well as control and audit functions standardised across the EU. On the overall structure of the policy, the draft report and most of the amendments proposed avoid the issue of deep reform, preferring to keep a similar two pillars structure as it is today. Moreover, there are calls to remove Greening in pillar one, but there are few requests so far to replace it with something more ambitious such as an Eco Scheme. Several MEPs ask to move away from a compliance payment model towards a results-oriented CAP, but little is mentioned of what these results should be, or how this public money is linked with the delivery of public goods to society. In March, IFOAM EU explained its priorities concerning this report to lead MEP Dorfmann and several of the key MEPs in charge of this dossier, the work will continue ahead of the vote in Committee

The Council of the EU, made of the governments of the 28 Member States, has also been discussing and preparing its position on the CAP. At the last meeting of national Agricultural Ministers on 19 March, it was expected that common Council Conclusions would be published, but five Member States did not agree to sign the Conclusions, and therefore the text had to be downgraded to Presidency Conclusions. This unusual event shows that there are significant divisions within the Council, but also that the issue causing the rift – distribution of Direct Payments between countries – is and will continue to be of the highest priority at national level. The 23 governments that did sign the Presidency Conclusions support a significant flexibilization and simplification of CAP implementation, including keeping to basic indicators and streamlined reporting. If this were to be implemented, it is hard to expect that the CAP could deliver on complex socio-economic and environmental objectives, such as the EU’s commitments to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In terms of environmental and climate protection, the Conclusions support a “a higher level of ambition” under both CAP pillars and “remunerating farmers for the public goods they provide”, although there is no detail on how this could be done or with what instruments, other than that it should be simple and flexible. IFOAM EU followed this debate in Council closely and published press releases during the previous meeting in January and again for the Presidency Conclusions in late March.

To summarize, the Parliament seems to favour a modest reform of the CAP with a similar structure and it has doubts about the new flexible model outlined by the Commission. The Council is struggling to find consensus with tensions rising between Member States on the distribution of money, while there are calls for simplification and flexibility that could reduce the effectiveness of the policy. In this complex debate, as the Commission drafts its proposal, it should consider what European consumers want and farmers need, then focus on long term solutions for the challenges that the agricultural sectors face. Maintaining the status quo is not an option, to keep its relevance the new CAP must be forward looking and must demonstrate its contribution to public goods. Beyond 2030, IFOAM EU’s vision is of a CAP guided by the core principle that public money must deliver public goods.

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