Birdlife Europe – 4 Policy Instruments for CAP overhaul

Heron photo by ThomasWolter

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia have made proposals to substantially overhaul the CAP, or Common Agricultural Policy. The NGO proposes four policy instruments: a Transition instrument for Sustainable Farming; a Sustainable Food instrument; a Nature and Biodiversity instrument and a “Space for Nature” instrument. A polluter  pays principle is suggested to fund these instruments. Also proposed is the end of the two pillar system, parity for environmental legislators, a specific take on farmer payments – seen more as investments based on performance/results, with no guaranteed basic payments, and a transition focused interpretation of risk management.

 The organisation’s paper  – Towards a new European Food and Land-Use Policy  – is built around four core areas: fairness, environment, health, and what it describes as being “globally responsible”  – dealing with climate change and sustainable development.

The four core elements of the Birdlife CAP proposal are:
  • Fair – for farmers and rural communities.
  • Environmentally Sustainable – for clean air and water, healthy soil, and thriving plant and animal life.
  • Healthy – for good food and the well-being of all people.
  • Globally Responsible – for the planet’s climate and sustainable development around the world.
The document is divided into vision, governance structure and policy sections. “The “CAP has created a food and farming system that is failing on all fronts.” the NGO says. As a response, their vision is “for a new European agricultural policy” build around “a healthy agriculture sector – diverse in terms of farming types, produce and demography – within a rural landscape where our natural resources are managed sustainably and where biodiversity thrives”.

Policy Instruments

For BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, policy should, via investment and a contractual approach, enable transition of the agri-food system. “The main focus of the next policy should be on transition with a significant amount spent on one off temporary investments…The reform should apply the “contractual” approach to all funding between farmers, land managers and society. Any new payments system should build upon existing programmatic approaches to payments…”

Four proposed policy instruments, as described by BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, are as follows:

Transition instrument for Sustainable Farming – a temporary investment fund (limited to two financial periods of the EU) that should help farms switch to a high-quality, nature-and-animal-friendly and profitable economic model and invest in healthy, economically diverse rural areas. It should support the long term goal to make farming sustainable and independent from public subsidies.
Sustainable Food instrument – a set of investments to build up sustainable value chains, reduce food waste and increase the demand for healthy and environmentally sound food at fair prices.

Nature and Biodiversity instrument – the central EU fund for financing about 75% of the costs of implementation of the EU nature legislation (e.g. Natura 2000) and other key biodiversity action in Member States. In particular, the fund should reward specific biodiversity action undertaken by farmers, foresters and other land users with an earmarked minimum budget of 15 billion EUR per annum. The fund should be programmed under the lead of environmental authorities.
“Space for Nature” instrument – area-based entry level payment scheme, accessible for the vast majority of farmers, which dedicates a varying percentage of each farm to (strictly non-productive) natural elements, thereby fostering biodiversity and ecosystem services across the agricultural landscape. The scheme must be free of any exemptions, equivalences or weighting factors. These instruments should be complemented by a system to raise revenue from the polluters.

Environmental legislators are to be given parity with other legislators, where environmental topics or areas are under consideration. The NGO also argues for policy coherence, the end of the two pillar system, and for CAP to “manage risks with tools that support farm diversification and knowledge transfer, rather than publicly financed “risk management” instruments for price volatility.”

Risk Management

“BirdLife Europe & Central Asia and its EU partners oppose the introduction of publicly financed risk management instruments that insure against price volatility. BirdLife and its EU partners believe that the use of risk management tools for price volatility is counterproductive in many ways. It provides a further incentive for unsustainable intensification and specialisation. It also does not contribute to addressing any environmental challenges, and may very likely make them even worse, potentially creating the “moral hazard” of unsustainable practices. Furthermore, it will divert CAP funds away from land managers instead of being used to support land managers in the transition to sustainable land management by incentivising important biodiversity measures. The principle of risk management
should be promoted through farm diversification and knowledge transfer, rather than complex and costly financial instruments.”

Two Pillars

“The current Rural Development “pillar” still retains many environmentally harmful measures and must be reformed to facilitate the transition to a sustainable food and farming system. Many Member States are using Pillar II funds to finance measures that further intensify production beyond ecological boundaries…There is also considerable
underfunding for the positive measures within Rural Development programmes…replacing the positive aspects of the Rural Development pillar with other tools, such as a transition instrument and a nature financing instrument. In the long term, regional development in rural areas could be addressed by the EU’s regional policy.”

Transition Instrument for Sustainable Farming

For this instrument, farmers have “ambitious legal obligations” to fulfill, to justify “an investment stream” which would “allow farmers to access the required finances to change their  farm structure, management practices and infrastructure.” This would be “without permanent basic subsidies.”
There would be improved advisory services, capital investment grants as well as support for land management planning. The instrument would be used to develop “a new rural economy, higher environmental and animal welfare standards, support for switching to organic farming, the objective of a circular economy and sustainable bioeconomy, as well as farm business diversification and short supply chains.”

This instrument would take a “whole farm approach” and focus on “adding value” rather than simply increasing production.

“It should, by its very nature, be time-limited to one or two EU financial periods. However, several features of the current rural development pillar should continue as part of the investment fund; during the transition period, the latter would ensure the sustainability of rural communities, through the existing systems of grants and financing, such as the LEADER Programme. In the long term, this objective could be taken over by the EU’s Cohesion Policy.”

Avatar photo
About Oliver Moore 216 Articles

Dr. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC.

A propos d'Oliver Moore
Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cœur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux. 

Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »). 

Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large.

Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web. 

À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire.

Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.