The Council meeting was deemed as the “most important in a decade” by German agriculture minister Julia Klöckner, who chairs agricultural issues during Germany’s EU presidency.
At the same time, the European Parliament’s first voting session on the same matter saw a compromise between the three biggest political groups, supporting a proposal that, according to the Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, is more ambitious that the one agreed by ministers and so setting the stage for tough talks with the member states.
The reform of the CAP foresees that while more flexibility will be given to member states in shaping rules and funding allocations through the development of national strategic plans, they will be obliged to demonstrate a higher environmental ambition compared to the current period. The so-called "new delivery model" would favour performance over compliance: it would enables countries to choose the best tools and actions at their disposal (and also taking into account national specificities) to reach the agreed EU-wide objectives and standards.
The new common agricultural policy will not enter into force until 2023, to give Member States time to adopt the new provisions. In any case, it will have a budget for the next seven years of 390,000 million euros, of which 291,100 million are planned for direct payments from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and 95,500 million in aid from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
Some concrete examples of how member states will fulfil higher environmental standards, which were debated and agreed during the two-day Council, include:
- Farmers would receive financial support under the condition that they adopt practices beneficial for the climate and the environment, to make the CAP even greener than before.
- Farmers going beyond the basic environment and climate requirements would get additional financial support through the introduction of "eco-schemes". These new instruments for environment and climate protection would be linked to a dedicated budget, constituting part of the direct payments budget. It would be ring-fenced at 20%, which means that they would be unlocked through the use of eco-schemes. An initial pilot phase of two years would ensure that member states avoid losing much-needed funds while getting acquainted with the new instruments. Indicative examples of eco-schemes include practices like precision farming, agroforestry, and organic farming, but member states would be free to design their own instruments on the basis of their needs.
- All farmers would be bound to higher environmental standards; even the smaller ones. To help them in this greening transition, small farmers would be subject to more simplified controls, reducing administrative burden while assuring their contribution to environmental and climate goals.
Photo: Karsten Würth - Unsplash