Berlin, 8 December 2020 – The draft for a new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has to be renegotiated due to conflicting positions of the European Commission on the one hand and the EU Council and Parliament on the other. A group of scientists sees this as an opportunity to establish necessary improvements in these trialogue negotiations.
The 40 scientists from 13 countries, many of whom members of the advisory board of Scientists for Future, outline in a comprehensive study published today, how to save the current CAP reform. The particulars of the 2021-2027 funding period will be negotiated in the next few months in a trilogue between the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. The scientists maintain that it is still possible to align the CAP reform with the requirements of environmental, climate and species protection, and emphasise that the CAP can be developed into an effective policy for both, farmers and the environment.
Background: The EU Commission absorbed the lessons of past efforts, especially the weaknesses of its 2018 CAP proposal, and proposed substantially improved climate and environmental protection provisions. However, the EU Council and the EU Parliament, in October 2020, proposed changes to the legal text that would run counter to ambitious environmental policy and, instead, weaken the effectiveness of environmental policy instruments. Maintaining a CAP that prioritizes on big farms and intensive production, so the scientists’ conclusion, endangers medium-sized agriculture and fails to help farmers adopt practices that would mitigate climate risks and environmental pressures.
Sebastian Lakner, agricultural economist at the University of Rostock, notes: “The current position of the Council and Parliament undermines the financial viability of environmental preservation in agriculture. This is counterproductive because, currently, only very few landowners benefit from the status quo, and because this reform does not provide a reliable planning horizon.“
The CAP system is based on two pillars: Pillar 1, accounting for 80 percent of disbursements, consists of direct payments to farmers and is granted for agriculturally used area. Pillar 2 consists of targeted funding programs to support sustainable, environmentally friendly practices and rural development.
In their analysis, the scientists outline what components are needed for an environmentally viable reform that needs to be achieved through the trilogue process. The scientists recommend that as many as possible of the CAP’s environmental payouts be maintained. This includes earmarking at least 10% of the agricultural area for non-productive purposes. The Eco-Schemes (Eco Rules) in Pillar 1 should consist of ecologically effective measures and receive 30% of the funds. The agri-environmental and climate policies of the Pillar 2 should also be strengthened. The scientists warn against listing “Areas of Nature Constraints” as part of the financial envelop as “green”, without any justification for this. They also call for cancelling the proposed limits for Member States to invest in environment and rural areas.
The need for such measures has been known for a long time. Intensive agriculture is the most prominent cause of species extinction and soil degradation, as Gregor Hagedorn, a biodiversity specialist, explains: “Farmers depend on nature resources like soil, water and pollinators, and cannot produce without them. Especially in light of environmental change, we need CAP to help and support farmers in protecting their soil for their own good., with benefits for everyone.“
Agriculture is the largest line-item in the European Union budget. Between 2021 and 2027, earmarked outlays for the common agricultural policy amount to €357 billion, of which €270 billion (76%) for direct payments and market support. Rural development programs (EAFRD) are to receive only €87 billion (24%), in contrast to a greener and fairer CAP that supports rural areas. This highlights the significance of the forthcoming CAP negotiations.
The full text of the research group can be found here: Pe’er, Guy et al. (2020): „The EU’s Common Agriculture Policy and Sustainable Farming: A statement by scientists„, Leipzig, https://zenodo.org/record/4311314#.X89zW-cxlpg
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Lakner, University of Rostock, Chair of Agricultural Economics;