Honourable Members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and
First of all, let me say that I am very happy to be here with you and
exchange ideas on the future of agriculture and the Common Agriculture
I know we share at least two fundamental ideas:
The EU agriculture sector needs a strong Common Agriculture Policy and
"A heavy purse makes a light heart".
We are working on this and we need to work on this together.
Before getting into the debate, allow me to give you a brief overview of
where we stand with the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy.
A broad public debate on the future of the CAP ended in July, a debate in
which we got a high level of response - not just from farmers, but also from
think tanks, NGOs working in environmental protection, development,
consumer's rights, and animal welfare, and a large number of private
During the public debate, in response to questions about why we need a CAP,
the various contributions identified seven major challenges:
- food security
- environmental challenge
- territorial balance
Based on our discussions in and around the conference, and with Member
States, we can summarise the main objectives of the CAP in 3 main priorities –
food production; the sustainable management of natural resources; and the
maintenance of the social fabric and landscape of rural areas – or territorial
Let me say a few more words about some of these challenges.
Food security is one of the biggest challenges that the world faces in the
years ahead. The FAO forecasts that global food demand will increase by 50% by
2030 and double by 2050. The strategic importance of agriculture will increase
significantly in the future.
We also have a responsibility towards the citizens of the world. We should
keep our capacity to help countries facing challenges in feeding their
citizens, without blocking the growth of their own agriculture.
The EU should not become too dependent on imports. You all know what
happened this summer on the international markets when, due to a decrease in
cereals production, Russia decided to impose a ban on exports.
There is no risk for Europe at this stage and this is thanks to our Common
On this point of international trade, allow me one digression:
I am well aware of your concerns related to the re-launched negotiations
with MERCOSUR. The Commission as a whole decided last May that it was worth
restarting talks with the MERCOSUR countries, estimating that it would be a net
gain to the European economy. The progress is not fast.
Aware of the concerns expressed on the impact that this agreement could have
on certain sectors of our agriculture – not least, Irish concerns - I have
called for a more detailed, up-to-date analysis of costs.
But whatever happens on MERCOSUR, my intention is to make sure that we have
sufficient mechanisms in place to support vulnerable European
Returning then to our second main priority – let's call it the environmental
challenge – namely climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, depletion
of soil…. This is not the scenario of a horror movie, but a reality tested
day-by-day. Farmers themselves are the first affected by climate change and
extreme whether conditions. Farmers can also bring answers to this and we have
to support them to adapt their practices to the challenges ahead.
For me there is absolutely no doubt that agriculture can provide a major
response to all these challenges.
The EU 2020 strategy with its targets of intelligent, sustainable and
inclusive growth has to go beyond the city gates. If fit to respond these
challenges, the Common Agriculture Policy will have a major say on this.
To fight these challenges, we have to maintain our production capacity all
across Europe, ensuring a sustainable use of natural resources and – our third
main priority – maintaining the vitality of our rural areas .
The Common Agriculture Policy with its two pillars structure allows for
coherence between different approaches in supporting agriculture and rural
areas in Europe.
The first pillar would be our response to the major challenges, common to
all EU Member States, such as the social, economic, environmental and
territorial challenges. The first pillar provides support for all European
farmers on an annual basis.
The second pillar would be the development of our agricultures and our
territories, addressing climate change and contributing to the sustainable
management of natural resources. It will support our objectives in a targeted
way, with clear priorities, on a multiyear basis of programming. It will have
sufficient flexibility to achieve our objectives according to specific
characteristics in different territories.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is a crystal clear truth: Direct payments are crucial for the future
of European agriculture.
The direct payments of today are income support for farmers. The ways these
payments are distributed will be adjusted, but the principle is not under
discussion. Direct payments are indispensable for the sustainability of our
agriculture across Europe.
Without direct payments, agricultural production would severely decline in
vulnerable sectors or regions. The economic and social damage would be
considerable and I do not imagine for a moment that we are ready to take this
We must promote sustainable agriculture throughout Europe, recognizing and
taking into account all its diversity.
But preserving this diversity does not mean reactivating national policies
to the detriment of the EU policy. The re-nationalization of the CAP is not
acceptable because this would destabilize the only truly integrated European
policy and would ruin the efforts to achieve the single market.
This support plays a vital role in securing most farmers' incomes. It
ensures the sustainability of our agriculture throughout Europe, and allows
farmers to provide other benefits and public goods beyond "just"
producing safe food.
This being said, I do not advocate for a status-quo.
In these troubled times, we have to make the CAP Europe's investment for its
future. And it will not be the case if the support for our farmers is based on
what they did in the past.
Direct payments must evolve towards better targeting active farmers in order
to optimize the use of public funds. They have to better reflect the care
farmers take of environment, providing stronger incentives for sustainable
farming – but must also retain the elements of income support for those many
farms that need it.
We must move to a system where the taxpayer can understand what farmers are
doing for them. The current system sees considerable differences in the rate of
aid that farmers get from one member state to another. This is not justifiable
for the period after 2013. Direct payments must be more equitably distributed
amongst member states, regions and types of agriculture.
Our aim is to put forward a balanced solution, acceptable to all member
states. We will not solve problems in some countries by creating difficulties
I've said it a few days ago, during a pubic hearing on volatility and
speculation: the markets have never had as much impact on farmers, processors
and consumers, as they are having today.
We must adjust these markets so that they can play their role to anticipate
and match the demand with the supply. But we must make sure that
hyper-speculation is not jeopardizing entire sectors of our agriculture.
In addition to an increased regulation of markets, we have to put within the
Common Agriculture Policy new tools to address the extreme volatility of prices
and farm incomes. It is in my intention to put forward some proposals in this
respect. We also need progress on the question of distribution of bargaining
power within the food chain.
The Future CAP need stronger rural development programmes.
More than in the past, they must accompany agriculture on the path of
modernization, adaptation to climate change and innovation.
To conclude, I would like to come back to a fundamental element, and I know
that we agree on this point too: agriculture has a crucial multifunctional role
for our territories.
Our public investment in agriculture goes well beyond food, which is however
already a vital element and we must continue our efforts.
We must promote an agriculture capable of overcoming the crisis, an
agriculture efficiently managing natural resources, an agriculture that is the
economic engine of our rural areas.
I know we can do it together.
Thank you for your attention!