Allowing EU Member States greater responsibilities to choose how and where to invest their Common Agriculture Policy funding is the “flagship” of the European Commission’s latest proposals, writes Stephen Cadogan.
The commission will follow up with legislative proposals along these lines before next summer, after EU budget proposals are made.
Yesterday’s announcements by Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan suggested how the CAP will change, to make the sector more resilient in times of crisis, supporting farm incomes and viability, while accommodating digital innovations, reducing red tape, favouring much-needed generational renewal, and strengthening European rural areas.
The commission has opted for giving national governments more control over how they implement the CAP, as part of an effort to bring the CAP closer to those who implement it on the ground.
Simpler rules and a more flexible approach are also aimed for.
IFA President Joe Healy said an increased budget will be the essential for the future CAP.
He was concerned at yesterday’s indication that the EU Budget will have to do more to meet new challenges, and that “the CAP will have to be looked at in this context”. “Commissioner Hogan cannot allow the CAP Budget to be raided, any new EU initiatives must be funded by new money,” said the IFA President.
But he welcomed the strong commitment to direct payments in the CAP after 2020.
He also welcomed the reference to retaining the “critical” two-pillar CAP model, including the diverse and flexible Rural Development Programme.
ICMSA President John Comer said the over-riding emphasis appears to be on environmental and climate change matters.
It was therefore extremely difficult to see either improved farmer incomes or a simplified system being progressed, based on yesterday’s announcement.
He said it was perfectly clear that economic sustainability for farmers is still way down the commission’s list of priorities.
“Clearly there are a number of positives in the communication which should be acknowledged.
“We particularly recognise the suggestions that support is targeted to genuine farmers who are actively farming in order to earn their living, a compulsory cap on direct payments, and the interest expressed in the ICMSA proposal for a Farm Management Deposit Scheme that would enable farmers, through the taxation system, to save funds in good years to cope with bad years.
“We also warmly welcome the recognition of farmers’ completely disadvantaged position in the food supply chain and the ambition to change this”, said Mr Comer.
He said it is critical the current CAP Budget is maintained, at least.