Simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
Simplifying the CAP is essential to making our agricultural economy more competitive, preserving and creating jobs and contributing to a sound development of rural areas.
Commissioner Hogan's Mission Letter [141 KB] (which he received from President Jean-Claude Juncker, on the first of November 2014.) focused on simplification during his mandate.
Simplification must be compatible with broad policy objectives:
- the environment,
- food safety,
- cohesion and
- protection of the Union’s financial interests.
The purpose of simplification is to ensure that policies, the mechanisms chosen to implement them and the necessary legal framework are never more complex than is necessary to achieve the intended objectives effectively.
Farmers and other economic operators in the agricultural sector should be relieved from red-tape and requirements that are not necessary to reach political objectives and ensure proper management of taxpayers' money. Simplifying the CAP is essential to making our agricultural economy more competitive, preserving and creating jobs and contributing to a sound development of our rural areas.
Commissioner Hogan's simplification Agenda
Screening of of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
From the beginning of his mandate, simplification of the CAP has been one of Commissioner Hogan's top priorities.
In early 2015 Commissioner Hogan initiated a thorough screening of the entire agricultural acquis in order to identify the potential for simplification in that policy. At the same time, by letter dated 14/01/2015 [9 KB] , he invited Member States, stakeholders, the EP, the Council, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to come forward with simplification proposals. On 11 May 2015 the Council adopted conclusions on CAP Simplification.
More than 1500 simplification proposals have come out of this process. The examination of all resulting proposals was based on the following three principles:
- Simplification should be predominantly for the benefit of around 8 million beneficiaries of the CAP;
- The political decisions of the 2013 reform should not be put into question;
- Simplification should not jeopardise the sound financial management of the CAP.
Following this assessment, those proposals which could be implemented through Commission level acts (delegated or implementing acts) were immediately transformed into concrete actions.
Actions so far
For the first year of application of the CAP reform, the focus was on injecting additional flexibility to facilitate the implementation of the new rules - a pragmatic approach that was well-received by farmers and administrations alike.
In May 2015, the deadline for submitting aid applications for direct payments was extended, to give farmers more time to understand the new requirements.
More flexibility was given to Member States in relation to voluntary coupled support payments, for instance regarding the eligibility conditions or the possibility to transfer funds between different measures.
As regards greening, the conditions for implementing one of its elements, the ecological focus area, were simplified by revising the guidance documents.
The support scheme for young farmers was amended to provide Member States with greater flexibility regarding the eligibility of legal persons controlled jointly by young farmers and other farmers.
In December 2015, important amendments were made to the Commission rules for the Integrated Administration and Control System for area related aid (IACS). Member States can now for instance run preventive preliminary cross checks as part of the aid application process, giving applicants the possibility to correct their errors, thus reducing the risk that administrative penalties have to be applied. In the same vein Member States with a low error rate now have the option to reduce the number of on the spot checks for area aids.
All of these changes, most of which are already applicable, are to the direct benefit of both farmers and national administrations as they facilitate the fulfilment of CAP requirements and reduce the burden of controls.
For Rural Development, the 2014-2020 programming exercise was completed in December 2015. Thus, as a first step, it is necessary to assess the use made by the Member States of the simplification options included in the new legal framework for 2014-2020 and to identify good practices which could be further disseminated.
Rural Development, as one of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), follows the common rules on programming for ESIF. DG AGRI participates in the ESIF High Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries established in July and takes part in common ESIF studies, in particular, on the use of the simplification options by Member States and on the harmonisation of ESIF with other EU instruments.
In the end of April 2016 changes were made to implementing rules on rural development to simplify the publicity requirements for smaller beneficiaries and the programming rules for financial instruments by lowering the publicity obligations in certain cases.
Other initiatives in the pipeline
More and more far-reaching simplification initiatives are in the pipeline or in an advanced stage of planning for 2016.
As regards direct payments, a comprehensive review of the greening arrangements has started in December 2015 with a detailed public consultation and is planned to be completed at Commission level before the summer break. It will be based on the experience gained in the first year of application with regard to the so-called ecological focus areas but also extend to problems identified with the implementation of other aspects of greening. Any regulatory changes resulting from this review will be taken forward early enough to apply to claim year 2017.
In IACS, a more proportionate system of administrative penalties will be introduced which will lead to a more equitable situation in particular for small farmers while maintaining the effectiveness of the penalty system. In addition a new "yellow card" system for first-time offenders will better take account of the complexities of the basic direct support system.
Concretely, whereas the current system for the calculation of penalties is based on different categories and different rates, a simple, unique and lower level of penalty, which is 1,5 times the area over-declared will be introduced.
The yellow card system will provide that, where the over-declaration is minor (below 10% of the area declared) the administrative penalty of first offenders is reduced by 50%. If a non-compliance is found in the following claim year for the same aid scheme or support measure, the beneficiary concerned will have to pay the part of this administrative penalty which had not been initially applied in the previous year.
In the area of market support the existing Commission level acts will be consolidated from currently more than 200 regulations to no more than 40. This will also be an opportunity for simplifications regarding for instance public intervention and private storage, import and export licenses, wine support schemes etc. The experience with trying to simplify the rules as regards ethyl alcohol, which was rejected by the European Parliament in May 2015, shows that there might be resistance to some of these proposals, for instance those seeking to simplify the rules governing agricultural markets.
Further simplification activities
The Commission Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), which was launched in 2012 (COM(2012)746 ) , has as objective to review the entire stock of EU legislation in order to identify burdens, inconsistencies, gaps or ineffective measures that may have appeared over time and to make the necessary proposals to follow up on the findings of the review.
An initial screening and mapping of the EU acquis, to which all DGs contributed, was carried out in spring 2013. The screening showed what the Commission has done in recent years to keep its legislation fit for purpose and to simplify and reduce costs.Certain parts of the EU agricultural legislation are subject to the REFIT Programme. Legislative actions by DG AGRI that lead to simplification and regulatory burden reduction are listed in the REFIT scoreboard. A good example of such action is the recently adopted proposal for an organic farming regulation, (Proposal for a Regulation of the EP and of the Council on production and labelling of organic products on 24 March 2014 COM(2014)180). The regulation will bring improvements to the overall quality of the legislation and improved accessibility of the rules while at the same time simplifying procedures for operators and national administrations as well as for control bodies.
The Harvest Experience Programme
The programme whose implementation started in 2010 has for objective to give Commission officials a deepened understanding of the reality on the field and of the challenges faced by the agricultural sector, so as to make them better placed to draft policies and legislation that connect with that reality.The open exchange of views and experiences with farmers and other operators also makes it possible to collect and develop new ideas for simplification.
The Common Agricultural Policy is shaped by a vast number of rules. On a regular basis these rules are reviewed and obsolete elements and rules that have no practical relevance are removed from the CAP.
DG AGRI initiatives and its actions of simplification supported
Evaluation of administrative burden:
- "Study on administrative burden reduction associated with the implementation of certain Rural Development measures" (08/2011)
- Opinion of the High Level Group [76 KB] on administrative burden reduction in the priority area 'Agriculture / Agricultural Subsidies' (March 2009).