Today’s Commission College meeting has adopted a special declaration relating to the Delegated Acts of CAP Reform. In addition a number of interpretative notes will be added to the delegated acts to clarify a number of issues. Throughout the process of preparing the Delegated Acts the Commission has worked very closely and transparently with the European Parliament and Member States, while of course remaining in line with the Basic Acts of CAP Reform. Today’s declaration addresses concerns that have been raised about Ecological Focus Area (EFA), reiterating the possibility for adapting the relevant Delegated Act in future. It remains up to Member States to define their precise rules that will apply to EFA on their territory, notably what crops can be cultivated and what technologies may be used, on condition that this enhances biodiversity, as stipulated in the Basic Act. As far as the production of nitrogen-fixing crops on EFA is concerned, the Commission has decided to adjust the coefficient in the Annex – in time for implementation of the reform in 2015 - such that 1 hectare of a nitrogen-fixing crop such as alfalfa, clover or lupins can be equivalent to 0.7 ha of EFA (rather than 0.3 ha in the original text) in order to make the option more attractive. This should also be seen within the context of the EU’s strong dependence on imports of protein crops. Of course, any nitrogen-fixing crops grown on EFA will have to be done in a way that enhances biodiversity, respecting the production conditions defined for EFA by Member States.
The Commission undertakes to thoroughly evaluate the experience with the implementation of the obligations on Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) as part of the 'greening' obligations, after the first year of application. In particular, the Commission will ensure that the administrative burden for Member State authorities and producers arising from the application of EFA is kept to an absolute minimum and that procedures are simplified, including those on ditches. The situation in terms of a level playing field due to the implementation of EFA in different Member States will also be examined and addressed if necessary. Should the requirement to meet the EFA obligations result in a noticeable reduction of the production potential of the EU, the Commission will revise the relevant delegated act.
In the meantime, the Commission will adopt a delegated act amending the delegated act on direct payments to increase the EFA weighting factor for areas cultivated with nitrogen fixing crops from 0.3 to 0.7 with application on January 1st 2015.
The interpretative notes are aimed at providing legal clarity for the way in which Member States interpret particular aspects of the reform, and thereby provide additional assurances for national implementation vis-à-vis future audits. These cover issues such as the implementation of Greening, in particular as regards Ecological Focus Area, but also issues relating to the definition of “active farmers”, and young farmers who are in a partnership with “non-young” farmers.