IEEP Reaction: CAP Communication Launch

The European Commission launched its long expected Communication on ‘the Future of Food and Farming’ on 29 November. 

IEEP’s initial reaction to this is as follows:

• Commissioner Hogan’s determination to float proposals now rather than defer the future CAP debate until after 2020 allows for the impetus for reform to be maintained. The 2013 reform made significant changes to the structure of the CAP: for example a proportion of direct payments were allocated for ‘green’ practices. Nonetheless the suite of CAP measures remains insufficiently focussed on addressing the significant economic, environmental and climatic challenges facing society.

• The introductory ‘Context’ section of the Communication does not sufficiently reflect the urgency and seriousness of the need for a substantial further modernisation of the policy. Given the inertia in the political process for CAP reform, a much stronger impetus will be required if the CAP has any hope of securing the necessary resources in the next MFF to help the agricultural sector through a period of transition.

• Far too few of the existing public payments are targeted to justified outcomes. Simpler does not necessarily mean more effective. This demands more than marginal changes. For example, the continuation of direct payments, even with the redistribution proposed, would continue a system that has been shown to be an inefficient, ineffective and inequitable way of supporting policy goals, including farmer incomes. Achieving maximum added value from CAP spending measures is a priority, particularly in light of the likely cut to the CAP budget.

• The proposals do include an acknowledgement of the need to deliver against key long term objectives for the environment and climate – including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement climate mitigation commitments. This is important to ensure policy coherence. The CAP’s critical role in helping to deliver European biodiversity, water, air and soil related objectives needs to be set out as well.

• Public goods are recognised as central to the long term sustainability of EU agriculture, mirroring the response to the recent public consultation. However, there is a need to articulate a clear direction of travel for the whole CAP – a roadmap towards sustainability. This should be combined with a clear set of objectives and targets for environmental and climate achievements and robust indicators to measure progress. This is currently absent from the proposals.

• Maintaining a focus and expenditure on the delivery of public goods is critical for the long term sustainability and resilience of agricultural and forest areas. However some of the ideas about a revised structure of mechanisms to enable this are decidedly vague and open to interpretation. Greater clarity on how the new combined pillar structure might work is required to ensure it is fit for purpose.

• The new delivery model proposed (appearing to mean more subsidiarity to Member States, the combined programming of both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 measures, with funding based on performance) is potentially bold and could free up more creative and innovative approaches to delivery and controls. Pursued in the right way, it could also help ensure greater coherence between the use of the suite of CAP measures to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability in a joined up way. However, with greater programming it does not seem sensible to ignore the possibility of co-financing all CAP measures.

• But to be effective, this new approach must be well embedded in appropriate cultures and institutions within the Member States and underpinned by effective accountability and monitoring frameworks. Historic precedents on this are not encouraging. To make this work will require Member States to articulate far clearer objectives and targets than currently, put in place new monitoring and reporting regimes and a change in the control culture to become much more proportionate. This may require significant capacity building and knowledge exchange at the EU and national /regional levels

• Cultural change and a new approach to delivery at the farm or territorial level are essential to achieve sustained environmental and climate action at the scale required to meet EU priorities and commitments and to ensure that this is sustainable in the longer term, as identified in recent pan European research co-ordinated by IEEP. It necessitates greater cooperation, including active and positive engagement with farmers, stakeholders and the private sector, as well as Member States committing to spend money on facilitation, cooperation, capacity building and knowledge exchange. The paper half recognises this which is encouraging, but it needs to go much further if the CAP is to be genuinely seen as a policy that is capable of meeting the challenges facing rural areas in the coming decades.

For further information, the CAP Communication can be found here.

Key contacts in IEEP: David Baldock and Kaley Hart.
For more information , please contact our Communications Manager, Harvey Jones.

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