Introduction

President Rukwied, President Magnusson, Minister Kostinger, ladies and gentlemen, I'm very happy to be here with you this morning.

Since I spoke at your Praesidia on June 14th, right after the launch of the Commission's legislative proposal, I have been to the following countries, in the following order, to meet ministers, Copa-Cogeca member organisations, and other key stakeholders to explain and win support for our proposal:

Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Belgium (outside Brussels, I hasten to add), the Netherlands, France, Romania, Austria (again), Italy, Germany, and Hungary. Tomorrow I will be in Poland, and next week I will attend the Agriculture Council in Luxembourg and visit Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

As well as this I have personally met agriculture ministers from every MS and all the relevant MEPs.  I have worked as hard as anybody can to fight for a strong, modern, simplified and well-funded CAP beyond 2020. These battles are not won in offices in Brussels. They are won by going out and meeting people face to face, looking them in the eye, and working together to find the right way forward.

We are now entering crunch time in relation to the EU budget and the future CAP proposal. Now is the time for everyone who believes in a sustainable future for our European family farm model to come together and make sure we deliver the right result.

This will not be an easy task, and everyone in this room has a part to play. Your influence in the political and farming arenas is without parallel.  But influence is a bit like a milking robot on a dairy farm: it doesn't add any value until you switch it on.

Today I want to remind you of what it is we are fighting for, and urge you to use that influence to the greatest possible degree.

Let me start with the budget issue.

Budget/ MFF

I have taken good note of the view outlined in Copa-Cogeca's position paper published in September. You are firmly opposed to any cuts in the CAP budget, and you call for existing spending levels to be maintained in real terms.

This is a position I strongly support myself, indeed it is a position I outlined on every possible occasion during the discussions on the next EU budget.

Ultimately, the simple reality is that in budget negotiations framed against unprecedented pressures both outside and inside the EU, the big spending policies will always be first in the line of fire.

Inside the EU, one of the biggest net contributors to the EU budget is leaving the EU and taking its money with it.

Outside the EU, we have a very difficult situation of increasing migration numbers and increasing security threats on our borders.

Set against these challenges, the Commission's proposal for relatively modest cuts to the CAP can and should be viewed as fair.

But the most important point to bear in mind is that the final decision does not lie with the Commission. The Member States, working in co-decision with the European Parliament, have full freedom to increase their overall budget contributions with a view to keeping the CAP at its current level.

I have spoken to ministers in every MS and there is a willingness in a majority of countries to take this approach. But other countries still remain to be persuaded, and that is where you come in. You have a short but critically important window of time to make your case, and use your influence where it is most urgently needed.

Next year important institutional changes will take place at EU level – with European Parliament elections and a new Commission taking office – and time is tight to get the budget and CAP proposals over the line. Your position paper makes it clear that reaching an agreement on the MFF and CAP before the European elections is crucially important for you, and I fully agree.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my great colleague Commissioner Oettinger and the Austrian Presidency for their work on the MFF. Real progress is being made on setting up a number of negotiating boxes. There is every reason to believe that an agreement is possible early next year.

This would provide clarity and predictability for beneficiaries and national administrations. I welcome the Austrian presidency's strong push to make progress, and I also want to acknowledge the efforts of our MEPs to speed things up.

My team and I will not be found wanting when it comes to fighting for a strong and well-funded CAP. I hope that when the dust settles you will all be able to say the same.

CAP Proposal

Next let me turn to the details of our proposal. You have had over 4 months to digest our ideas, and I welcome your position paper published in September.

I would remind you that nothing we included should come as a surprise: everything published in the proposal was trailered in the Communication on the future of food and farming which we published last November. And of course, the Communication was itself the product of a long, deep and exhaustive consultation process with citizens, policymakers and stakeholders, including yourselves.

In other words, the Commission did not pluck this proposal out of thin air: we are responding to what our citizens tell us they want, and what our farmers tell us they need.

We are aiming to build a food and farming policy that delivers more results than ever before, and that does so in a manner which is simpler, fairer, more resilient and more sustainable.

These are not simple buzzwords – they are real and achievable targets, with farmers at their heart.

The same hold true when you compare our proposal with MEP Dorfmann's report which was approved by 482 votes in the EP. 82 per cent of the Dorfmann report is reflected in our proposals.

CAP Proposal: Simplification

We believe that our proposal for a new delivery model will lead to real simplification and better results for our farmers, who will have clearer instructions adapted to national needs and less red tape in their daily work.

You all know that simplification has been my number one priority as Commissioner. I successfully pushed through as many simplifying measures as I possibly could in the existing CAP.

We proposed five separate waves of simplification measures to the benefit of farmers, relating to direct payments, RD and the CMO.

For example, we modified the system of penalties for BPS and SAPS, through which a complex model based on three categories of over-declarations, each leading to a different penalty calculation, was substituted with a single model applicable to all over-declarations. This made the system of penalties simpler and more proportional as well, especially for first-time offenders and minor over-declarations where a 50 per cent reduction of the penalty is foreseen.

Through the Lisbon Alignment of the CMO sector specific-rules, 24 Regulations have been adopted and 2 more are in the pipeline. We have already largely succeeded in reducing the number of regulations from more than 200 to 40.

Together with the MS and the European Parliament, we made several important changes to the basic acts in the "Omnibus" proposal.  For example, we facilitated the uptake of financial instruments and we simplified rules for risk management tools.

But the crucial point is that these were all adjustments to existing measures, implemented without opening the basic acts.

Now we have before us a golden opportunity to start from scratch, providing our MS with real flexibility to come up with lighter and simpler CAP interventions, much closer to the beneficiaries.

Your September position paper argues that the proposals do not go far enough.

In response I would simply say that the proposal will provide all the necessary tools to achieve real simplification, but whether these opportunities are seized depends on the MS; for instance we will have fewer eligibility rules for many measures, such as investments and young farmers, but whether or not these opportunities for simplification will be used in practice will depend on the MS.

Again, I would urge you to use your influence where it is most effective. The Commission, while scrupulously maintaining a common rulebook and a level playing field, is giving our MS more freedom to simplify. But with that freedom comes greater responsibility. I would urge your members to work closely with your MS administrations to shape your national CAP strategic plans. This is a genuine opportunity for you to directly influence food and farming policy from the ground up.

CAP Proposal: Fairness

Our proposal will also deliver greater fairness for the small and medium-sized family holdings that are the beating heart of our European farm model.

I have visited these family farms all over Europe, ranging from dairy farms in the Austrian alps to citrus farms in the south of Spain. And there is one consistent message I hear everywhere I go: direct payments are their most important safety net.

That is why the Commission has chosen to prioritise the protection of direct payments. Without a viable income to make a living, our family farmers will not survive, let alone provide more public goods and benefits.

Our citizens understand this. That is why fairness has been an overarching theme in discussions with wider civil society.

In an effort to ensure a fairer distribution of payments, the Commission has made a number of proposals. These include:

Compulsory capping on direct payments, taking into account labour to avoid negative effects on jobs. MS will have the option to set a lower cap between €60,000 and €100,000. Between these two figures a system of degressivity will apply. The proceeds of capping will be redistributed within each Member State;

Member States will also be able to offer small farmers a round sum payment; and

in terms of internal convergence, MS will have to ensure that, by the end of the new MFF period, no payment per hectare will be less than 75 per cent of the average payment for basic income support for that MS.

Coupled income support has been re-designed in order to allow Member States to better target and tailor interventions according to their specific needs. Under this type of intervention, Member States will have the possibility to support sectors in difficulty, with the aim to improve their sustainability, competitiveness or quality.

CIS will be available for beef & veal, milk & milk products as well as sheepmeat & goatmeat sectors, as is currently the case.

For rural development funding, the same as for the European Structural & Investment funds, the Commission has proposed to rebalance EU and national support.

So we are moving towards a fairer CAP. We are moving towards a simpler CAP.

CAP Proposal: Resilience

And we are moving towards a CAP that prioritises the viability and resilience of our farmers throughout Europe.

Viability is not just about guaranteeing a fair level of income support; it is also about finding new opportunities for our farmers, supporting generational renewal, and strengthening their economic position in the food supply chain.

The EU's trade balance in agri-food products has been positive for 8 years in a row. This has brought benefits to our sector and there is huge potential to do more. Trade agreements can help EU farmers and food producers to make full use of these opportunities.

Our study on the impact of ongoing and upcoming trade negotiations has shown great potential for future EU exports, in particular for the dairy sector, as well as for pigmeat, wheat, wine and other beverages.

Another study, looking at the impact of already concluded trade agreements, provides concrete evidence that these boost agricultural exports and have supported jobs in the agri-food.

The study finds that the three trade agreements studied in detail - the Free Trade Agreement with Mexico, the FTA with South Korea and the trade agreements with Switzerland - have increased EU agri-food exports by more than 1 billion Euro and have raised value added in the agri-food sector by 600 million Euro.

This increase in exports has supported almost 20.000 jobs in the agri-food sector, of which 13.700 jobs are in primary agriculture. Around 7.700 additional jobs were supported in other sectors.

Viability also means promoting a new generation of ambitious, outward-looking farmers.

Our proposal pays special attention to young farmers, aiming to attract them into the sector and facilitate their business development.

Young farmers will benefit from a wide range of instruments, which will include a combination of mandatory and voluntary aspects, including:

A minimum budget within the CAP plan - corresponding to at least 2% of the direct payments envelope - will have to be dedicated to support young farmers, either in the form of a complementary income support or through installation grants.

There will be an increase in the maximum amount of installation aid for young farmers, up to €100,000;

Young farmers will continue to benefit from investment support and knowledge transfer and training interventions.

Beyond these measures, the new delivery model provides an opportunity to make a decisive breakthrough in the area of generational renewal.

Many important policy areas relating to young farmers are controlled at national level, such as taxation and land use. MS can therefore make proposals to support young farmers in a far deeper way than can be done from Brussels.

CAP Proposal: Sustainability

Finally, let me turn to the question of sustainability. With the new delivery model, we have provided a new answer to an old question: how can we support our farmers to maintain European food security while doing more for the climate and environment?

The people of Europe are committed to having no further negative impact on climate change after 2050. That is what we signed up for in Paris, it affects everybody, and there is no exception to this.

It was already clear in the lead-up to the 2013 reform that our shared European agriculture policy needed to adapt to the changing political reality: our citizens expected more bang for their buck and we had to deliver a strong collective response.

The answer to the question in 2013 was the greening of the CAP. Now, 5 years on, we can say without any real risk of contradiction that greening did not work. It did not deliver the results that our citizens want and our climate so desperately needs.

So we took the approach that our ultimate goal was to deliver real, measurable results, and we worked our way backwards from that. But I want to be quite clear that I have said at every single stage that farmers must be rewarded if we expect them to do more work.

I am therefore convinced that our proposal provides the right mix in order to pay our farmers for the extra work they will do for the environment:

For the future the available tools for achieving our objectives can be grouped into three main layers:

In the first layer, a new system of "conditionality" will link all farmers' income support (and other area- and animal-based payments) to the application of environment- and climate-friendly farming practices.

The new and enhanced conditionality includes more than 20 requirements each farmer has to respect, for example drawing up an on-farm nutrient management plan;

The standards/requirements laid down imply higher environmental ambition – through new standards and improvements to existing standards. Take for instance one of the climate-relevant conditions: "A ban on burning arable stubble".

This is a simple but clear condition that can be followed all over the EU and that protects our environment. Only some decades ago this was still common practice in many regions of the EU.

The next layer consists of "eco-schemes" funded by the CAP Pillar I budget – which Member States will have to offer, but which will be optional for farmers.

Pillar I eco-schemes will have to address the CAP environment and climate objectives – in ways that complement the other relevant tools available.

The content will be up to Member States, and could range widely.

But the measures supported here must go beyond that of conditionality and should be simple to implement. One could for instance consider supporting organic farming through such an "eco-scheme" under Pillar I. This would also leave more funding in rural development for other interventions.

The third main layer of the architecture consists of payments within CAP Pillar II (rural development) for various kinds of interventions. This means particular practices in farming or forestry - especially "agri-environment-climate commitments" for farmers.

Member States will have to offer agri-environment-climate payments in their CAP plans, but uptake will be voluntary for farmers, as is currently the case.

AEC payments can be used to cover a potentially wide range of agricultural practices: as under the current approach, no restrictions will be laid down in EU rules, though the practices must go beyond the requirements of conditionality.

In addition to these three main layers, Member States can continue to use their rural development budgets to fund a range of other interventions relevant to the environment and climate - such as funding for knowledge transfer, eco-friendly investments, innovation and co-operation.

There will still be the obligation for MS to spend at least 30% of their Pillar II budgets on the environment and climate.

Member States have the possibility to transfer up to an additional 15% from direct payments to rural development for spending on climate and environment, without the need for national co-financing.

All these actions will in combination deliver real advantages for both MS and farmers: there is substantial discretion to target environment and climate actions in line with local needs and conditions. 

I hope you will agree that if these tools are used to their full potential they can truly support farmers in changing practice towards more sustainability.

Conclusion

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the Commission has developed a vision for how EU policy can help to feed the global population in a sustainable way – not just through our shared common EU agriculture policy but also through research and innovation funding.

This vision is bold, ambitious, and has our farmers at its heart. I am calling for your support in these crunch months. Thank you.