On Thursday 20th October, at the 3120th meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg, agricultural ministers from across the EU held their first exchange of views on the proposals for CAP reform released by the Commission on 12th October.
Discussions focused on three elements of the Commission’s proposal:
- Reserving payments for active farmers
- Reducing direct aid to the biggest farms
- The so-called greening of direct payments
Council President and Polish Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Marek Sawicki said that “there were some voices stating dissatisfaction, but this is normal because it is a starting document that we will continue working on.” After the meeting, he told the press “we are at the very beginning of a very difficult road.”
Ministers widely criticised plans for being too complicated and expressed fears that they would create more difficulties for farmers and bodies administering the payments.
Several member states raised concerns over the proposal to reform the direct payment system, which provides subsidies to farmers. The greening proposals also raised concerns. While some countries agree to the principle of introducing a “greening” element to the EU’s direct subsidy scheme, many questioned their compulsory connection to certain agricultural practices as well as the size of the national envelope reserved for environmental measures (30%).
The press release issued by the Council following the meeting states that most countries seemed to approve of the proposed measures relating to market management and largely welcomed plans to introduce funding for the next generation of European farmers and for small farmers to help them innovate and diversify.
Despite the concerns raised, Commissioner Dacian Cioloş showed some optimism, arguing that most of the concerns expressed by member states were due to a superficial lecture of the Commission’s proposals.
Sawicki said that the Polish EU Presidency would hold further ministerial talks on direct payments in November and on rural development in December.
In parallel to the ministerial closed-door discussion, at least two public debates are scheduled before the end of the year: EU ministers will express their views along with MEPs in the European Parliament on 7 November while a second debate will be organised with trade unions and economic experts.
Council of the European Union Press Release
Ministers wary about Commission’s farm reform, Euractive
CAP reform: Greening measures spark greatest misgivings, Europolitics
Farmers face more red tape over CAP reform, Farmers Weekly Interactive
Stronger political focus needed for future of farming, Friends of the Earth