Developments in global agricultural markets and new European Union (EU) commitments on climate change and sustainable development mean the common agricultural policy needs to evolve yet again, to meet these continuing challenges.
On 29 November 2017, the European Commission presented a communication outlining ideas on the future of food and farming. The communication comes after a consultation on the future of the common agricultural policy (CAP) in order to better understand where the current policy can be simplified and modernised.
The future of food and farming
The communication proposes a number of changes to the CAP, focusing primarily on making it simpler and ensuring the best value-for-money. As well as outlining the priority areas that the future CAP must address, it also proposes a more flexible approach to implementing the policy in order to guarantee more effective results.
Tackling climate change and preserving the environment is the number one challenge facing the EU, and the CAP must play an enhanced role in this battle – not only to protect farmers from the impact of climate change but also to ensure that farming does not contribute to making the problem worse. Stringent new goals will be set at European level to ensure farming contributes fully to helping meet the EU’s international commitments on climate change and sustainability.
A toolkit of proven methods for ensuring these targets are met will also be developed at the European level. EU countries will then be given the flexibility to choose which of these tools to use in order to achieve the desired results, taking into account their national context. Each EU country will develop its own strategic plan – approved by the European Commission – setting out how they intend to meet the objectives. Rather than on compliance, the attention will be paid more on monitoring progress and ensure funding is focused on concrete results. Moving from a one-size-fits-all to a tailor-made approach means the policy and its real-life implications will be closer to those who implement it on the ground.
Support for farmers will continue through the system of direct payments, but the communication acknowledges that the way in which these payments are currently distributed needs to be revisited. It sets out a number of possible options for ensuring payments within and between member states are more fairly distributed and better targeted at where they are needed most.
Other proposals include:
- encouraging the use of modern technologies to support farmers on the ground and provide greater market transparency and certainty
- doing more to help encourage young people to take up farming, including a more coherent approach with each member state
- addressing citizens' concerns regarding sustainable agricultural production, including health, nutrition, food waste and animal welfare
- making sure the CAP remains coherent with other EU policies on issues such as trade, migration and sustainable development
- creating an EU-level platform on risk management on how best to help farmers cope with the uncertainty of climate, market volatility and other risks
Full legislative proposals on how concretely to meet the goals outlined in the communication will be put forward by the Commission in the first half of 2018, once the proposal on the EU’s seven-year budget post-2020 (the so-called Multi-Annual Financial Framework or MFF) has been published.
Findings of the consultation
- keeping a strong common agricultural policy at European Union level
- the value added of having a common agricultural policy
- challenges ahead (fair standard of living for farmers, environment and climate change)
- a need for a simpler and more effective policy
During the three month consultation period, the European Commission received more than 320 000 replies, mostly from individuals.
Along with the Commission's own on-the-ground analysis of the current state of play, those findings fed into the communication on the future of food and farming.
- budget proposals (Multiannual Financial Framework): May 2018
- full legislative proposals on how concretely to meet the goals outlined in the communication (first half of 2018)
The communication and prior consultation process build on a number of steps taken in 2016, such as the Cork 2.0 declaration, the annual Outlook conference, the regular civil dialogue group on the CAP and the Agricultural Markets Taskforce (AMTF) report.
Background documents on challenges facing agriculture and rural areas
- Economic challenges for the agricultural sector
- Challenges related to environment and climate change
- Broader socio-economic challenges facing agriculture and rural areas