REPORT on simplification of the CAP

22.3.2010 - (2009/2155(INI))

Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
Rapporteur: Richard Ashworth

Procedure : 2009/2155(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected :  


on simplification of the CAP


The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 19 October 2005 - Simplification and Better Regulation for the Common Agricultural Policy (COM(2005)0509),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication of 18 March 2009 - A simplified CAP for Europe - a success for all (COM(2009)0128),

–   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A7‑0051/2010),

A. whereas all legislation must be proportionate to the objective and should only be introduced after a full impact assessment analysing the financial burden which legislation would impose, and including a full cost benefit analysis, has been carried out,

B.  whereas simplification should benefit farmers first and foremost and not only the national authorities and payment bodies in the Member States, as has been predominantly observed,

C. whereas a new CAP should allow farmers to concentrate on the core objective of providing safe, quality and traceable food while also supporting them to deliver non‑market public goods,

D. whereas the objective should be to reduce the implementation costs of the CAP while reducing the administrative burdens on Community producers, to enable farmers to spend more time working their land,

E.  whereas a new CAP should be sustainably competitive,

F.  whereas it is necessary to ensure clear and understandable legislation that provides legal certainty for competent authorities and farmers, and to eliminate unnecessary legislation,

G. whereas the distribution of the single farm payment should ensure fairness,

H  whereas a functional legal framework is necessary to manage the important legal issues involved in the CAP,

I.   whereas a new CAP should be more market-orientated, in line with the recent reforms of the common agricultural policy, and focused on reducing excessive protectionism, while keeping the tools available to assist farmers in times of severe economic volatility,

J.   whereas the new CAP should be more simple and responsive,

K. whereas legislation should be more flexible, in order to make the CAP adapt to recognise specific regions and territories, without jeopardising the common character of the CAP,

L.  whereas the exchange of good practice should be promoted among Member States and local authorities,

M. whereas the common agricultural policy is of central importance in the EU-27 as a means not only of ensuring an adequate supply of safe food but also of continuing to respond to such challenges as the conservation of rural areas, mountain regions, disadvantaged areas, extremely peripheral areas and the multifunctionality of European agriculture,

General Principles

1.  Emphasises that the CAP should seek to harmonise regulation by removing duplication; also asks the Commission, when introducing new regulation, to simultaneously seek to remove unnecessary burdens;

2.  Urges the Commission to consult widely and regularly with agricultural stakeholders in order to better assess the impact of regulation on the ground, and to identify practical, simple and transparent rules for farmers;

3.  Underlines that further simplification of the CAP is necessary to reduce its implementation costs for EU institutions, Member States and the beneficiaries themselves; in this way, the policy will also become more understandable to farmers and taxpayers;

4.  Calls on the Commission to harmonise CAP rules by eliminating the duplication of tasks and reducing bureaucracy, with a view to increasing the competitiveness of the agricultural sector in all the Member States;

5.  Stresses that CAP measures should be proportionate to the objective and that the legislative path should be chosen only where it is genuinely justifiable, thereby avoiding a legal construction which is difficult for farmers to understand;

6.  Calls for the CAP to be outcome-driven rather than focussed on regulation and for all Member States and their regional authorities to offer more help and advice to farmers through advisory tools and through appropriate communication methods;

7.  Expects that, in line with the principles of better regulation, all future legislation will be accompanied by a full impact assessment with consideration for regulatory and administrative burdens and ensuring that any new regulation is proportionate to the aims it seeks to achieve;

8.  Believes that, where possible, Member States should allow self-certification;

9.  Considers that the Member States should have the option, in rural development plans, to introduce a flat-rate land parcels scheme, particularly for small farms, on condition that compliance with the obligations entered into is guaranteed;

10. Recognises the value of the principle of cross-compliance as one of the key concepts of CAP direct payments, but that strong simplification is recommended , without reducing their effectiveness;

11. Stresses the need for the CAP to be simpler, more transparent and more equitable;

12. Points out that the simplification of the CAP need not result in less support for farmers and the dismantling of traditional market management instruments;regrets the near-total dismantling of the Community marketing rules in the fruit and vegetables sector; calls for the European Union to introduce efficient mechanisms to curb price volatility with a view to the future;

13. Stresses that simplification of the CAP must go hand‑in‑hand with information measures for beneficiaries, and calls on the Commission to expand and develop information measures on the common agricultural policy;

14. Calls for the possibility of autonomous error correction which would allow recipients of payments who unintentionally broke the rules to inform the authorities without becoming liable to fines as a result;

15. Points out that the system of fines for farmers for errors in payment claims should be commensurate with the scale of the infringement and that penalties should not be applied in the case of minor mistakes, and particularly not in the case of errors that are not the fault of the farmer;

16. Points out that any administrative fines, including the obligation to pay back any payments obtained by the farmer, should not be based on circumstances objectively beyond the farmer’s control and particularly not on unforeseeable events;

17. Points out the problem of farmers with spouses who run separate agricultural holdings, who should therefore have separate rights and obligations with respect to claims for CAP payments;

Cross Compliance (CC)

18. Believes that the basic aim of inspections is to give advice to farmers and put them on the right track in order to better comply with the legislative requirements with as little encumbrance as possible; inspections should, therefore, continue to be carried out by the public authorities to ensure they are independent and impartial;

19. Emphasises that, according to the UN, global food production must increase by 70% by 2050 to meet the demands of nine billion people;

20. Considers that cross-compliance requirements should be laid down and should also take farm size into account so as to reduce the burden on small farms, where the risk is lower;

21. Insists that, when Member States apply penalties to farmers for failure to comply with regulations, these penalties must be applied in a transparent, simple and proportionate manner which takes account of the realities on the ground;

22. Considers that the statutory requirements for CC control should be easily understandable for farmers and control authorities;

23. Believes that the fundamental objective of checks is to encourage farmers to comply more fully with the law and that yearly CC controls for statutory management requirements (SMR) could be reduced or replaced by random checks, if there have only been a few infringements in recent years;

24. Emphasises that the requirement for follow-up checks in relation to small infringements (triviality limit) should be reduced to random samples;

25. Considers that the use of statutory management requirements which cannot be simply controlled and are not measurable should be abolished ;

26. Considers that Member States, or regional and local authorities, as appropriate, should be allowed to reduce the inspection quota to a specific lower limit if they have a risk analysis framework that complies with Community law requirements, along with evidence of high compliance;

27. Calls for the introduction of a risk analysis framework compliant with Community law in each Member State, with a view to reducing the inspection quota to a specific lower limit;

28.  Considers that more help and advice through efficient information and advisory tools, such as a telephone helpline or the use of the Internet, would help prevent infringements and give Member States the means to steadily reduce their inspection quota.

29. Considers that the controls carried out – or due to be carried out – at farms by the various parties whose job or statutory duty it is to conduct them should be coordinated with a view to reducing the number of farm inspection visits;

30. Considers that a communication plan on cross-compliance should be drawn up in order to provide as much information as possible, for both farmers and consumers, about cross-compliance requirements and the benefits arising from the public goods and services delivered by farmers whose activities comply with those requirements;

31. Considers that the number of CC requirements should be reduced and their scope updated;

32. Calls for the authorisation of a practicable and transparent system of indicators with the aim of simplifying the assessment instruments for CC checks and calls for abolition of the current system and of the possibility of two or more penalties being imposed for a single error; calls on the Commission to analyse the disproportion between infringements of animal identification regulations, accounting for some 70% of all infringements, and other requirements and to make appropriate changes;

33. Considers that a single legislative text should be drawn up on cross-compliance considers that the positive externalities generated by farms, in terms of public goods and services, should be fairly remunerated;

34. Calls for the retention of certain hard and fast CC rules, with which the Member States are able to agree and comply;

Direct payments

35. Considers that farmers must have access to workable systems that allow them easily and without needless bureaucracy to submit applications for direct payments, typically in the place in which they live;

36. Believes that, in order to simplify the rules for the single payment scheme, the provision of the same detailed information on an annual basis should be abolished;

37. Considers that less information need be provided with applications, as the information needed can be found in the paying agencies of Member States;

38. Calls for more flexible payment arrangements to be permitted which make it possible to make payments even before all checks have been definitively completed;

39. Urges the Commission to examine the definition of eligible land and its interpretation in the Member States;

40. Believes that the current definition of agricultural activity for the purposes of single payment should be reviewed in order to ensure that claimants who are not active farmers are not eligible;

41. Considers that the future system should take into account the principles of simplification and that simplification, transparency and fairness should be the key priorities of the CAP reform;

42. Calls on the Commission to review the system of control and settlement of accounts;

43. Considers that the Commission should adopt a more proportionate and, ultimately, a risk-based approach to the application of regulatory controls, the conduct of compliance audits and the imposition of financial corrections;

44. Invites the Commission to come forward with proposals by means of which the audit and control framework for the CAP might be improved;

45. Considers that existing major disparities of direct support between the Member States must be prevented to ensure equal treatment of farmers throughout the European Union and to avoid market and competition distortions;

46. Recognises that, in order to cope with environmental challenges, including climate change adaptation and mitigation, farmers have an important role to play in defining the practical measures required to meet these objectives and believes that outcome agreements rather than regulation are the best mechanisms to deliver those objectives;

47. Stresses that a reduction of the administrative burden relating to monitoring and reporting imposed on producer organisations in the fruit and vegetable sector would make these organisations more attractive to farmers and encourage them to associate and act together;

Rural development

48. Stresses that when payments are made due to an existing certification scheme (e.g. organic production and environment aid schemes), one audit only is sufficient;

49. Notes with concern the high level of errors in applications for direct payments recorded in some Member States; stresses that these errors are attributable mainly to the orthophotographic equipment used, rather than to farmers; calls for such errors to be punished only in cases of clear attempted fraud;

50. Considers that legislation which presents a conflict with other legislation should be regularised before being imposed on the farmer (e.g. environment legislation and single payments scheme);

51. Considers that the definitions in rural development legislation should be reviewed and, if necessary, expanded in order to ensure consistency with direct payment legislation;

52. Believes that transparency regarding penalties and obligations on farmers should be increased;

53. Calls for the introduction of precisely‑defined obligations on farmers with a view to eliminating the lack of transparency regarding penalties;

54. Wishes to use a broader, long-term view of control of these schemes with more emphasis on the ultimate impact and outcome instead of focusing on specific error rates due to rural development/environmental measures;

55. Stresses that the current complex system of indicators needs to be reviewed and simplified, and that the monitoring system, annual reports and ex-ante, mid-term and ex-post evaluations have created an overly complex system of indicators and reports;

56. Asks the Commission to examine the use of outcome agreements as a simple and more efficient method for the delivery of public goods in the future;

57. Calls for the introduction of a simplified and consistent system of indicators, which would implicitly result in greater ease of understanding and application, pertinent evaluations and less bureaucracy;

58. Considers that the rules concerning eligibility of the VAT to be financed under Pillar II of the CAP, especially for activities performed by bodies governed by public law, should be harmonised with those used for the Structural Funds;

59. Stresses that simplification of the CAP must go hand‑in‑hand with simplification of its implementation, and calls on the Member States to minimise the bureaucratic formalities required of potential CAP beneficiaries, especially in the area of rural development;

60. Calls on Member States, in their national rural development programmes, to place at the disposal of potential beneficiaries systems that guarantee transparency, and to grant them the necessary time to prepare applications for financing and meet the various eligibility criteria for the aid schemes; calls on the Commission to ensure that this matter is a permanent feature of the bilateral discussions with the Member States;

Animal identification

61. Urges the Commission to examine the system of animal identification used in each Member State and to work towards a uniform system of animal identification ensuring that unnecessary regulation is removed: in particular, examination of producer numbers and holding numbers, the number of registers required and the difference between producer and holding;

62. Calls for far-reaching harmonisation of the currently very differentiated animal identification regulations;

63. Believes that reporting on the movement of sheep and goats and the forwarding of information to databases and the authorities should be simplified as much as possible, with all communication tools being permitted, including new technologies;

64. Considers that for sheep and goats, as for pigs, herd identification is sufficient;

65. Calls for deferment of the obligation on the electronic identification of sheep and goats starting from 31 December 2009, given its excessive cost in a time of economic crisis;

66. Calls for an amnesty of three years on cross-compliance penalties relating to electronic identification of sheep and goats, given that this is a new and complex technology and will require some time for farmers to become accustomed to and road-test; further, calls on the Commission to conduct a thorough review of the regulation;

67. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission.

Explanatory Statement

The administration of the Common Agricultural Policy is frequently far too complicated and it is therefore of vital importance to the entire agricultural sector that the policy is simplified and life is made easier for farmers at the point of delivery. The simplification process is essential in order to make our agricultural economy more competitive, to preserve and create jobs and to contribute to the sound development of our rural areas.

It is encouraging to see the target of a 25% reduction in the administrative burden is expected to be reached ahead of 2012, as proposed in the 2003 CAP Health Check. However, this is an absolute minimum and the EU must strive to reduce the burden on our hard pressed agricultural communities to a far greater extent in the coming years.

The Single CMO, while attempting to deliver technical simplification by combining a multitude of sector specific regulations into one, didn't deliver practical benefits to farmers, administrators or paying agencies.

Therefore, in the run up to CAP reform in 2013, CAP simplification should be at the heart of CAP reform proposals before and post 2013.

Cross Compliance rules are one of the key concepts of CAP direct payments and provide a justification for the payment of subsidies to farmers. They also play an essential role in ensuring that European agricultural products are of the highest standard possible. However, a strong simplification of the existing rules is recommended. We strongly support the principle of a uniform application of cross compliance rules across the union. It is understood that there will be some variation in application over 27 member states which encompass huge variations in climatic conditions, however wherever possible uniform application of cross compliance rules should be encouraged.

In particular Cross compliance controls should be made more "user friendly" for the farmers involved. For example, requirements for statutory management requirements should be significantly reduced if there have been only a few infringements in the previous year. The requirements should be "sleeping" and triggered for CC control only when a similar requirement in the specific sector regulation is being infringed, as is the case for animal diseases which are not encountered in certain member states.

Follow up to infringements must be proportionate to the offence. Currently, there is more persistent follow up on minor infringements to cross compliance rules than on ordinary infringements.

Member states should be allowed to use specific sector controls that stem from a different sector where the rules under CC originate in order to abolish the rules of specific CC when a specific sector already covers all relevant requirements.

There has been a tendency for the number of CC requirements to steadily increase, this has reduced the acceptance for the whole concept among farmers and has created considerable burdens for national administrations.

With regards to animal identification, this should in principle be done using the producer number as opposed to the holding number. Registration and identification are very burdensome for farmers, so it is therefore important to use all opportunities to simplify, especially with the use of the new technologies. This is especially important for the identification of pigs in herds with integrated or externally integrated production. i.e. producers with piglets and pigs for slaughter at the same farm alternatively producers who cooperate. The use of producer number instead of holding number is just as safe a method as far as traceability is concerned and much simpler.

Legislation on animal identification should be revised to make it more flexible and less bureaucratic. Current legislation in this area is too rigid to serve its purpose and therefore causes not only unwarranted costs for the farming industry but may even be counterproductive in a disease outbreak situation. The legislation should be reviewed and rules made more flexible and less bureaucratic, without violating the purpose of the legislation. . Whilst new technology should be incorporated into animal identification schemes as soon as is possible, they should only be incorporated after a thorough impact assessment which includes a cost benefit analysis and assessment of how reliable the new technology is.

Separate registers for cattle should also no longer be required. An extract from the CDB should suffice as documentation. The keeper should however be able to account for actions at his holding until these are documented in the register. Thus, the keeper need not register in the way instructed by the authorities.

Similarly, the annual counting of sheep in December should be abolished. Every year, in December all animal keepers have to count their sheep and send the information in a special document to the Board of Agriculture. This requirement should be abolished since the information does not state the number of animals kept throughout the year. Neither does it help with traceability of animal diseases.)


Date adopted





Result of final vote







Members present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew, Richard Ashworth, Liam Aylward, José Bové, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă, Michel Dantin, Paolo De Castro, Albert Deß, Diane Dodds, Herbert Dorfmann, Hynek Fajmon, Lorenzo Fontana, Iratxe García Pérez, Béla Glattfelder, Martin Häusling, Esther Herranz García, Peter Jahr, Jarosław Kalinowski, Elisabeth Köstinger, Giovanni La Via, Stéphane Le Foll, George Lyon, Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez, Gabriel Mato Adrover, Mairead McGuinness, Krisztina Morvai, James Nicholson, Rareş-Lucian Niculescu, Wojciech Michał Olejniczak, Georgios Papastamkos, Marit Paulsen, Britta Reimers, Ulrike Rodust, Alfreds Rubiks, Giancarlo Scotta’, Czesław Adam Siekierski, Alyn Smith, Csaba Sándor Tabajdi

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Luís Paulo Alves, Spyros Danellis, Jean-Paul Gauzès, Astrid Lulling, Daciana Octavia Sârbu, Jacek Włosowicz