And finally, after months of vacillating, the EU has made a decision about what the new Common Agricultural Policy should look like over the next 7 years.
Except, actually, they have sort of made a decision in principal about some issues, but those that were too difficult they have deferred to other negotiations. Even those things that they have made decisions about we still need to wait to see what the legal texts actually say.
Confused? Well just think how farmers and foresters feel, this is their livelihood that is being messed around with!
So what do we know:
Greening – this was the EU Commission’s big idea for this reform, to introduce a measure of environmental responsibility into the flat rate payment (Pillar 1) that all farmers are entitled to receive. Unfortunately, the negotiations have weakened this to such an extent that it is all but meaningless for most farmers.
Active Farmer definition – there will be a list of landuse that will not be allowed to receive Pillar 1 funding so no more funding going to sports grounds or airports.
What we don’t know:
Rural Development and agri-environment – still awaiting information about how much money will be given to each Member State to fund specific programs targeted at biodiversity and the wider environment.
Modulation – will the Government be able to move 15% of payments from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 to support rural development?
Degressivity – the largest recipients of Pillar 1 payments will see a gradual reduction in the amount they receive, but imposition of a maximum cap on payments is likely to be at individual country discretion.
What happens next?
More negotiations! There is enough clarity for the countries to develop the individual Rural Development Plans which they need to submit to the EU, but not enough yet to be able to put figures in.
This has been a real mixed bag of a reform, a lot of the details about how payments are made and what rules apply have changed but the overall message is still the same – the largest part of the budget goes in area payments to farmers with few restrictions. In a time of severe austerity across Europe it seems increasingly arcane to provide support at this level without meaningful assessments of sustainability or public benefit.
Frances Winder, Conservation Policy Officer