Reforming CAP in Wartime – New Report

As the last CAP Strategic Plan (Netherlands) has been approved, we launch a report summarising the key aspects of the CAP Strategic Plans approval process that started a year ago. This report is a collection of the work produced throughout the year, a look back on 2022, and what to look for in 2023. It includes in depth analyses of Member States’ Strategic Plans (France, Bulgaria, Wallonia, Ireland), new reflections on CAP and the instrumentalising of food security, transparency gaps, studies on the impact of CAP beyond the EU, and various analyses of the approval process. 

By Mathieu Willard

A look back on 2022

Throughout 2022, the influence of the war in Ukraine has shaped the debate around the future of global food security, trade, and agriculture. In our view, this terrible war – as is the case with many other invasions and wars that have occurred in the last decade and are still happening in the world – has been instrumentalised in favour of financial speculation and a techno-driven, environmentally damaging, produc-tivist agenda. It has exposed the European food system’s dependency on a strong monetary position and import of foreign fossil fuel energy, materials, and raw agri-food commodities.

Download the full report as a PDF

Instead of changing direction, this unexpected turn of events has been politically translated in different ways to defend unsustainable agri, rural, and trade practices. Unsurprisingly, the strongest voice has been the one of agri-industrial lobbies, urging policy-makers to increase short-term productivity, support the chemical fertiliser industry, and push for the postponement of key CAP conditionalities and Green Deal Objectives.

Neretva delta, Croatia
Neretva Delta, Croatia

Today we are confident to talk about a CAP post-2022 that has been made to fit for wartime. Now more than ever, the CAP has entered into the geopolitics of wartime, defending business-as-usual decisions or greenwashing over international food security, national interests, hunger, and human rights arguments. Indeed, this reinvigorated narrative for food security was politically translated into a Commission communication and Parliament resolution back in March. The new agenda was ostensibly to safeguard food security, by securing fertilizer and feed supply, allowing agricultural production on ecological focus areas with possible pesticide use, and allowing derogations on future CAP conditionalities.

Even though the Green Deal and specifically the Farm to Fork Strategy were still politically supported as the right policy for ensuring long-term food security, the momentum had shifted from the need for direct policy implementation now to an   adjustment some time in the future. This new hyper-productivist narrative started to effectively influence the rest of the NSPs approval process. The recommendation was now to adapt them with “relevant flexibilities to increase acreage of land under production”. For the rest of the year the excuse of at-risk food security has been used to undermine crucial aspects and strategies of the approval process.

North Rhine Westphalia, Germany
North Rhine Westphalia, Germany

In this new report, we reveal on how the observation letters and transparency requirements were overlooked by Member States. We expose how the political context laid bare our dependency on fossil fuels for agricultural production  – and how rural development policies suffered from it. Finally, we make a pledge for an agroecological transition, integrating the need for an agriculture that works for nature and farmers.  

What to look for in 2023

In the current context, it is really tempting to already look further to the post-2027 CAP and start thinking about possibilities of real revolutions in the CAP functioning. Even Wojciechowski, the AGRI commissioner responsible for this programming, has already said that the next challenge would be to get a stronger 2027-CAP.

Grape plantation in Trento, Italy
Grape plantation in Trento, Italy

Even though the reflection on the next CAP should in effect start now as it will be a central focus for the next elections, we think that we should still keep our focus on tools at our disposal to influence the CAP directly. There is the possibility to amend the NSPs with the first annual review. But the new monitoring and evaluation system still has to prove its efficiency in the mapping of incoherencies and underachieving measures. This process will have to be critically assessed throughout 2023 so that needed adjustments can be brought before a 2025 midterm review that will provide more opportunities for changes.

Governance will be a central focus for 2023. Regional and local bodies should continue to play a grower role in CAP and increase their decision making and governance capacity even in this shift towards CAP simplification and nationalisation. But we also want to highlight good farming practices that will, for some, be introduced for the first time in January 2023. All the tools cannot be changed every 7 years and we need to base our projections on what is working now.

Our hope for 2023 is an open, democratic, transparent governance system to bring to light the good agroecological (agronomic, social or economic) practices on which to base the future of the CAP.

Not enough? Check our previous reports

During the first two years of the CAP Strategic Plan Project, the goal had been to closely follow, report on, and critically assess the advancement of the CAP reform post-2022. A proposal was presented by the Commission back in 2018, before two major political events: Brexit and EU parliamentary elections in 2019. After the Council and Parliament reached agreements on their own positions in October 2020, it had become clear that the Commission’s enthusiasm for an ambitious reform was not shared by the other two co-legislators. Our first annual project report thus tried to answer the overarching question: has the CAP reform post-2022 been lost in ambition?

In late 2020 and 2021, the inter-institutional or trilogue negotiations began again, and the three pro- posed CAP regulations were only finally approved in December 2021. During this trilogue period, the original environmental and social ambition of the text, notwithstanding support from the newly introduced European Green Deal, slowly got watered down. As numerous amendments slowly weakened the original CAP proposal, we asked ourselves a new quesion in our second project report: has the CAP reform post-2022 been lost in details?

Download the full report as a PDF

This article is produced in cooperation with the
Heinrich Böll Stiftung European Union.


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About Mathieu Willard 25 Articles

After five years of studying agronomy, it was time for Mathieu to get on his bike and discover the idyllic landscapes of rural France and Spain. After several stops at various farms, and dozens of encounters with farmers and peasants, Mathieu realised that once back in Brussels, he wanted to analyse and understand what shaped the future of the people who had welcomed him throughout his journey. As CAP policy analyst and animator for ARC2020, Mathieu will delve into the intricacies of the Common Agricultural Policy and propose analyses that would highlight the changes that European agriculture and rural areas need as well as the means to achieve it. In his work with ARC2020, he will work to connect the different stakeholders in CAP, to help build a better future for agriculture. "I believe that it is urgent to invest in rural communities to allow for the development of living, vibrant, economically and socially valued rural areas. Decisions taken at the political level largely influence the possibility for people to develop food sovereignty and food systems that are respectful of people and the environment."