If the EU's future Common Agricultural Policy is to enjoy the support of all EU taxpayers, it must be equipped to provide food security and environmental protection, create new jobs and provide renewable energy, argued the EP Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. This will mean keeping the EU agriculture budget unchanged so that farmers have a reasonable incentive to meet these new challenges.
The committee is seeking to influence the upcoming legislation on the reform and modernisation of the EU farming sector, a process which is running in parallel with discussions on the EU's multiannual budget.
"This is a clear signal to [Agriculture] Commissioner Ciolos that the new direction for the CAP post-2013 is the one that Parliament is setting and the Commission will have to put forward legislative proposals accordingly", said Albert Dess (EPP, DE), who drafted today's resolution for the Agriculture Committee.
Committee chair Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT) said "Today's vote is the outcome of a lengthy work process that, as usual, involved all the political groups and has now set out the main principles to govern the new CAP", namely objective criteria for payments including employment, a new "green" element, more flexibility for Member States and a dedicated budget line in the event of market crises.
How to make the CAP greener
MEPs believe the EU's agriculture policy needs to gain fresh legitimacy in the eyes of Europe's citizens by providing secure supplies of high quality food, while contributing to environmental protection and renewable energy. It must be adequately funded to meet its new challenges and to give farmers an incentive to use modern, environmentally friendly techniques.
An EU wide "incentivisation" system, 100% financed by the EU, should be set up to support farmers who go in for sustainable production methods and sound management of resources such as water, soil and energy. Direct payments to farmers should be more directly linked to "greening measures" (low carbon emissions, capture of GHG emissions, low energy consumption), argue MEPs.
A fairer distribution of financial support
The Agriculture Committee wants aid to be more fairly distributed among Member States and among different categories of farmer. It proposes the gradual replacement of historical support criteria, which have led to disparities, with new, objective criteria.
For example, newer EU Member States currently receive less financial support per farmer than the older ones. In future, say MEPs, each EU country should receive a minimum percentage of EU average payments.
The Agriculture Committee also welcomed the introduction of a ceiling on direct payments per farmer, as is being suggested by the Commission, and proposed that the size, the employment record and the degree of environmental protection of each farm should be taken into full account.
To avoid misuse of public money, MEPs also propose that direct payments be reserved for "active farmers", i.e. those who use land for production. It presses the Commission to provide a clear definition of an "active farmer", which it says should certainly exclude cases where the administrative costs of making a payment are higher than the payment itself.
Stability: speculation, crisis management and farmers' bargaining power
Fighting speculation in agricultural commodities is crucial, to reduce extreme price volatility and guarantee greater stability for farmers inside and outside the EU. The committee proposes a worldwide notification system to defend agricultural stocks intended for food security and it supports French proposals made at the G20 on this matter.
In any event, the future CAP should be equipped with supply management tools, at zero cost to the EU budget, to prevent overproduction, say MEPs. However, if a crisis occurs, whether due to price fluctuations or other factors, special EU budget funding should quickly be made available to ensure a rapid response.
Lastly, MEPs believe new legislation is needed to improve producer organisations' bargaining power in the food supply chain, with greater price transparency and less unfair commercial practices, and to stop the trend of falling incomes for farmers.
Today's draft resolution - which was adopted by 40 votes to 1 with 4 abstentions, and will be put to a vote by the full Parliament at the Brussels plenary session of 22/23 June - is a response to a Commission consultation paper (see link below). The Commission will unveil its draft legislative package in the autumn, after which Parliament will have full co-decision powers with the Council on the final content of the legislation.
In the chair:Paolo DE CASTRO (S&D, IT)