Greening the CAP - how ‘equivalent’ are alternative approaches?
One of the key issues in the negotiations on the future of the CAP beyond 2014 is the way in which the commitment to ‘green’ direct payments to farmers under Pillar 1 will be implemented in practice. A particularly sensitive issue in the current debate surrounds the flexibility given to Member States to choose different ways of going about greening in relation to the model proposed by the Commission, which would mark quite a major change from the original proposals.
The study assesses in broad terms the degree to which existing certification schemes for farm products (involving environmental requirements) or voluntary measures under agri-environment schemes could be considered to be ‘equivalent’ to the three greening measures proposed by the Commission in October 2011.
The review shows that while the concept of equivalence may sound like a reasonable and convenient approach in theory, the practical issues with its application are likely to lead to far greater administrative complexity and cost, both for Member States and within the Commission, with arguably little additional environmental benefit. As the CAP reform negotiations enter their final stages, the study urges the Commission, Council and European Parliament to think through the issues that equivalence raises and find solutions that simplify rather than over-complicate the future delivery of environmental outcomes from agriculture.