On 1 June 2018, the European Commission presented legislative proposals on the common agricultural policy (CAP) beyond 2020. These proposals aim to make the CAP more responsive to current and future challenges such as climate change or generational renewal, while continuing to support European farmers for a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector.
The European Union shapes its budget for a pragmatic, modern, and long-term planning for the 2021-27 period to deliver on issues that matter to Europeans.
Nine clear objectives
Based on 9 objectives, the future CAP will continue to ensure access to high-quality food and strong support for the unique European farming model.
The 9 objectives of the future CAP are:
- to ensure a fair income to farmers;
- to increase competitiveness;
- to rebalance the power in the food chain;
- climate change action;
- environmental care;
- to preserve landscapes and biodiversity;
- to support generational renewal;
- vibrant rural areas;
- to protect food and health quality.
Key aspects of the proposals
Better targeting for a fairer deal
To ensure stability and predictability, income support will remain an essential part of the CAP. Part of this, basic payments will continue to be based on the farm’s size in hectares. However, the future CAP wants to prioritise small and medium-sized farms and encourage young farmers to join the profession. This is why the Commission proposes:
- a higher level of support per hectare for small and medium-sized farms;
- to reduce the share of direct payments received above €60,000 per farm and to limit payments at €100,000 per farm, with a view to ensure a fairer distribution of payments;
- a minimum of 2% of direct support payments allocated to each EU country will be set aside for young farmers, complemented by financial support under rural development and measures facilitating access to land and land transfers;
- EU countries having to ensure that only genuine farmers receive support.
Higher ambition on environmental and climate action
Farmers play a key role in tackling climate change, protecting the environment and preserving landscapes and biodiversity. In its proposal, the European Commission sets high ambitions on environmental and climate change. Mandatory requirements include:
- preserving carbon-rich soils through protection of wetlands and peatlands;
- obligatory nutrient management tool to improve water quality, reduce ammonia and nitrous oxide levels;
- crop rotation instead of crop diversification.
Farmers will have the possibility to contribute further and be rewarded for going beyond mandatory requirements. EU countries will develop voluntary eco-schemes to support and incentivise farmers to observe agricultural practices beneficial for the climate and the environment.
Farmers at the heart of Europe's society
Farmers are at the heart of Europe’s rural communities, providing vital public goods. The future CAP proposes to boost the development of rural areas by:
- helping new generations of farmers to join the profession, though mentoring of young farmers by more experienced ones, improving knowledge transfer from one generation to the next or developing succession plans;
- encouraging EU countries to do more at national level, for example through more flexible rules on taxation and inheritance, to improve access to land for young farmers;
- setting tougher food safety and quality requirements on farmers, by giving financial support only when complying with rules on reducing the use of pesticides or antibiotics for instance.
A new way of working
The European Commission proposes a more flexible system, simplifying and modernising the way the CAP works. The policy will shift the emphasis from compliance and rules towards results and performance.
Through strategic plans, countries will set out how they intend to meet the 9 EU-wide objectives using CAP instruments while responding to the specific needs of their farmers and rural communities.
The new way of working will also entail:
- streamlining administrative processes: countries shall submit only one strategic plan covering direct payments, rural development and sectorial strategies;
- making environmental protection easier: through a set of standards and objectives at EU level, each country shall adapt environmental and climate actions to the reality on the ground;
- simplifying support to young farmers: a single strategic plan will enable a consistent action for generational renewal covering both direct payments and rural development. Moreover, young farmers will have easier access to complementary income and installation support as EU eligibility criteria will be reduced.
Speech of Commissioner Phil Hogan on simplification and subsidiarity at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 16 July 2018
Knowledge and innovation are essential for a smart, resilient and sustainable agricultural sector. The CAP of the future will both encourage increased investment in research and innovation and enable farmers and rural communities to benefit from it.
Therefore, it is essential to build stronger agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS) to boost initiation and development of innovation projects, to disseminate their results and to use them as widely as possible. Including national AKIS strategies in CAP strategic plans, as outlined in article 102 of the proposal for a regulation establishing rules on support for strategic plans to be drawn up by EU countries under the CAP, will incentivise the structuring and organisation of the national innovation ecosystem. Ensuring that well-functioning AKIS exist throughout the EU avoids duplication of efforts, saves costs, increases the impact of EU and national/regional funding and speeds up innovation.
Successful AKIS strategies include four main group of actions:
- enhancing knowledge flows and strengthening links between research and practice;
- strengthening all farm advisory services and fostering their interconnection within the AKIS;
- enhancing cross-thematic and cross-border interactive innovation;
- supporting the digital transition in agriculture.
The European Commission has proposed to set aside €10 billion from the Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation in food, agriculture, rural development and the bioeconomy. The agricultural European innovation partnership (EIP-AGRI) will continue to pool funding sources from Horizon Europe and rural development to foster competitive and sustainable farming and forestry.