French minister of agriculture Stéphane Le Foll finally took a decision on 27 May for coupled aid distribution. While last fall President Hollande had decided to use 15 % of direct payments national envelope for coupled aids -so an extra 200 Mio EUR per year compared to 2014- its details remained undecided.
During more than 6 months of talks among farmers unions and the ministry, the main concerns came from the suckler cow premium distribution. This single coupled aid will represent 670 Mio EUR out of 982 Mio.
Two opposite visions had emerged from farmers unions: either renforcing the beef sector competitiveness with a focus on specialised larger livestock units and no degressive coupled aid (FNSEA), or giving priority to small and medium diversifed livestock units with degressive coupled aid (Confédération Paysanne).
A long-awaited decision
Le Foll finally cut in the middle and applies a degressivity: breeders claiming for premium should hold at least 10 suckler cows and amounts will be degressive as follows : 187 EUR per cow from first to 50th cow ; 140 EUR from 51st to 99th cow and 75 EUR from 100 to 139th cow.
In addition, a new coupled aid for dairy cows (140 Mio EUR) will be introduced as follows : 74 EUR per cow in mountain areas (up to 30 cows) and 36 EUR in plain areas (up to 40 cows).
Sheeps (125 Mio EUR) and Goats (15 Mio EUR) livestocks will be reinforced too, as well as others specific vegetable sectors : durum wheat, prunes, starch, hops, flax, hemp, processed fruits and tomatoes (27 Mio plants total).
Another long-awaited decision was the renewed protein crops support (2 % out of the 15 % coupled aids). This scheme having been introduced in 2010 after the CAP health check (former article 68) had benefited to peas and favabeans exports and not at all to feedstuff autonomy.
The re-focus proposed by Le Foll and supported among others by NGOs platform was to make breeders the main target instead of crop farmers so this could improve their feed autonomy through less imported soya.
Here Le Foll had expressed a clear preference for livestock feed autonomy without rejecting single crops farmers :
– 98 Mio EUR : a 100 to 150 EUR per hectare for breeders holding more than 5 livestock density index who will crop leguminous forages (single or mixed crops)
– 6 Mio EUR : soya
– 35 Mio EUR : peas, favabeans and lupins
– 8 Mio EUR : dried alfalfa
– 4 Mio EUR : forage seeds
In parallel Le Foll has confirmed the Less Favoured Areas payments (LFAs) revaluation for 2014-2020 period : at the end of the period, they’ll represent 1056 Mio EUR for 99,000 farmers compared to the 550 Mio formerly, which is due to various revaluations and to the former grassland premium shifting to LFAs.
So glass half empty or half full? Confederation Paysanne was worried about suckler cows premium modalities but is quite happy with proteins premium, while some FNSEA branches have expressed a reverse opinion.
Those decisions to the benefit of maximised coupled aids and to LFAs remain in accordance with the principles announced in the fall by President Holland: making aids legitimacy through employment and farming business in a country that does not like aids decoupling.