The common agricultural policy (CAP) reform, proposed by the European Commission in June 2018, introduces a more flexible, performance and results-based approach that takes into account local conditions and needs, while increasing EU level ambitions in terms of sustainability. Based on this approach and complemented by new CAP tools, the European Commission considers that the CAP reform proposal is compatible with the Green Deal’s ambitions.
Following a request of the European Parliament, the European Commission published today the ‘Analysis of the links between the CAP and the Green Deal’. This analysis examines the contribution of the CAP reform proposal to the EU’s environmental, climate, and biodiversity protection commitments set in the European Green Deal and identifies the steps needed to make the future CAP fully compatible with the Green Deal and its strategies such as the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.
Compatibility with the Green Deal
As a first step, the nine common objectives cover economic, social and environmental dimensions. In line with the Green Deal’s ambitions, they aim to increase the contribution of EU agriculture to climate change action, improve the management of natural resources, ensure a fair economic return for farmers, and reinforce the protection of biodiversity, among others.
The new way of working proposed for the future CAP is one of the key elements that makes the proposals compatible with the Green Deal. Based on a thorough assessment of the local conditions and needs, Member States will produce a national CAP strategic plan that will explain how they will use CAP tools to achieve the nine objectives, in consultation with stakeholders and competent national authorities. In addition, to ensure that these plans are coherent and consistent with the required environmental ambition, the Commission will approve each CAP strategic plans ahead of their implementation. Finally, quantified targets will allow the Commission to monitor the progress made by Member States when implementing the CAP.
In addition, the CAP proposal includes tools that will further promote sustainable farming practices throughout the EU, crucial to achieve the Green Deal’s ambitions.
Among those, the future CAP includes conditionality, which links area and animal-based CAP payments to a range of obligations. In addition it also introduces the new ‘eco-schemes’ that aim to reward farmers for going further in the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices. These practices could include the implementation of environmentally friendly production systems such as agroecology, agroforestry and organic farming. The rural development framework also includes environmental and climate management commitments, which aim to compensate farmers and other beneficiaries for voluntarily committing themselves to implement sustainable practices.
Furthermore, other tools under rural development can support the transition. For example, funds can be used to invest in green infrastructure, in knowledge transfer and innovation or in developing access to fast broadband in rural areas. On top of this, the CAP proposals include that a minimum of 30% of rural development funds should go towards CAP interventions that address specific environmental and climate-related objectives.
Furthermore, the CAP proposals also include objectives on rebalancing power in the food supply chain as well as contributing to new societal demands related to food and health, including safe, nutritious and sustainable food, food waste, and animal welfare. In practical terms, this means that Member States are required to review their actions in these areas and propose how to use different CAP tools to address challenges identified. For instance, the Commission will continue to support cooperation between producers through producer organisations. These types of organisations allow producers to strengthen their position in the supply chain, increase their resilience and act collectively to enhance sustainability of the supply chain. These objectives are also reflected in the Green deal’s ambitions. They will be essential to enable the transition while leaving no one behind.
Key elements for the future CAP
The CAP reform proposals are currently under discussion with the European Parliament and Council. The European Commission highlights in the ‘Analysis of the links between the CAP and the Green Deal’ the key elements that need to be kept in the negotiating process to ensure compatibility with the Green Deal’s ambitions.
One of the key elements highlighted in this section is the idea to oblige Member States to demonstrate, in their CAP strategic plans, how they will achieve a greater level of ambition than at present in terms of environment and climate objectives – the “no backsliding” principle. This ambition also requires that the enhanced conditionality and the ring-fencing requirements for rural development, among other elements, are preserved.
As a new step, the Commission considers that the requirement to spend a specific percentage (ring-fencing) of the Member States’ direct payments budget to the new eco-schemes systems can contribute to the ambition of the Green Deal. This would ensure that this tool will be fully utilised and bring concrete results in terms of encouraging the adoption of sustainable farming practices.
Possible action from the Commission for more ambition
The European Commission also proposes additional practical actions from the Commission services to make the implementation more effective in relation to the Green deal’s ambitions.
Firstly, it proposes to increase transparency in the approval process of the CAP strategic plans. Concretely this means that the Commission could make public all documents that could help Member States in the design of their CAP strategic plans. This could include documents on how the Commission will assess their plans but also their observations when assessing the quantified targets proposed by Member States.
Secondly, the European Commission proposes to put in place a structured dialogue with Member States already in the preparatory phase of the CAP strategic plans. In this context, the Commission will make recommendations to Member States based on an analysis of each Member State’s situation, taking into account the Green Deal’s objectives. In this process, particular attention will be given to the new Green Deal targets.
Thirdly, in terms of market-specific support programmes and coupled income support, the Commission will pay special attention to ensure that sustainability is taking into account when designed by Member States, and reflect the Green Deal’s ambitions.
Finally, recognising the crucial importance of data when assessing progress and providing farm advice, the Commission will propose to convert its current farm accountancy data network (FADN) into the Farm Sustainability Data Network. The idea would be to collect data on the Farm to Fork targets as well as other sustainability indicators. Through tailored advisory services, this network will provide feedback and guidance to both small and big farmers on best practices to improve their economic, environmental and climate performance.
The ‘Analysis of links between the CAP Reform and the Green Deal’ concludes that the reform does indeed have the potential to drive forward the Green Deal, shown through concrete examples. Nonetheless, key elements of the proposals must be maintained in the negotiating process, and certain improvements and practical initiatives should be developed to facilitate the achievement of the ambitions of the Green Deal.
20 May 2020