Press conference of Phil Hogan, Member of the EC in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020.

CAP reform ‘falls flat’ on environmental ambition, says conservation groups

June 1st, 2018

Hundreds of environmental organisations across Europe have spoken out against the proposed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) announced this morning.

Groups claim that the Commission’s claim that the new CAP will deliver a higher environmental and climate ambition falls flat and fails to guarantee any spending on biodiversity.

Announcing the proposals this morning, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said that 40 per cent of the €365 billion budget is expected to go toward climate action.

Member States will also be required to dedicate at least 30 per cent of their rural development budget (€78.8 billion) to environmental and climate schemes.

A new system of eco-schemes funded from national direct payment allocations will also be mandatory for Member States, however, farmers will not be obliged to join them.

Environmental crisis on EU farms

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) – a network of 140 environmental organisations across 30 countries – said that the new plan does little to tackle the “environmental crisis on Europe’s farmland”.

The network said that Member States won’t receive “dissuasive sanctions” for not meeting environmental and climate objectives under the Commission’s proposals.

This means that EU governments would have no incentive to ensure payments support farmers to produce food in a way that “works in harmony with the environment”, said EEB’s Policy Officer for Agriculture, Bérénice Dupeux.

“[Commissioner] Hogan says he wants a results-based policy but his proposal remains an empty shell, with payments neither linked to environmentally-friendly farm methods or actual environmental improvements,” she added.

BirdLife Europe, a partnership of conservation NGOs, added that the proposals fail to guarantee any spending on biodiversity and “grotesquely slashes” ring-fenced funds.

It is estimated that just over 6 per cent of the new budget will be ring-fenced for the environment and nature compared to around 30 per cent in the previous budget.

The conservation group said that this lack of “effective environmental safeguards” opens the doors to a new wave of support for “harmful” intensive farming.

Three out of the nine specific objectives in the future CAP concern the environment, with emphasis placed on tackling climate change and protecting habitats and biodiversity.

Birdlife, however, said that the Commission is ignoring a collapse of biodiversity by not allocating money for Natura 2000, the European network of protected sites.

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe, said: “This proposal drives another nail in the coffin of European biodiversity and puts the future of European farming in jeopardy.”

Wheat field in Co. Meath, Ireland Photo: Peter Mooney

Wheat field in Co. Meath, Ireland Photo: Peter Mooney

Capped Funding

The Commission is also proposing to reduce direct farmer payments to €60,000, with a cap of €100,000 per farm. According to the Commission, this will ensure a “fairer distribution of payments”.

Member States will also have to apply “more stringent definitions” for payment to ensure that only “genuine farmers” receive support, the Commission outlined in a statement this morning.

The 2017 list of CAP beneficiaries released this week shows that beef baron Larry Goodman and his family, the Emirate Maktoum family and Bord Bia were among the leading recipients of payments.

Preliminary data from Teagasc’s 2017 National Farm Survey shows that average farm income was just over €31,300. Over two-thirds of farms saw little change in income compared to 2016.

The CAP proposals also outline supports for young farmers by ensuring that Member States reserve at least 2 per cent of their direct payments to support young farmers in setting up in the profession.

This funding can be in the form of a top-up payment in addition to basic income support or through installation grants capped at €100,000.

Michael Creed, Minister, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Ireland Photo: Aron Urb

Overall Funding Cuts

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed TD, met with counterparts from a number of other EU member states in Madrid yesterday to discuss proposed cuts of five per cent in the CAP budget.

The meeting was attended by Ministers for Agriculture for France, Spain and Portugal, as well as State Secretaries from Finland and Greece. They signed a joint memorandum requesting that the CAP budget is brought back to the current levels.

“I am convinced that we have to protect the CAP budget if we are serious about preserving the family farm model that is central to the European project,” said Mr Creed yesterday.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is also calling on the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD to “make it clear” at the EU Heads of State level that the Commission’s proposed budget cut is a “non-runner”.

IFA President Joe Healy said: “All sectors have shared in the economic revival, yet farmers have had their direct payments eroded by inflation. At the very least, farmers need a CAP increase in line with inflation”.

The Commission’s proposals will now be sent to the European Parliament and the Council who will both outline their positions in relation to CAP.

About the Author

Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London

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