Debating the future of European agriculture
The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is to be reformed in order to guarantee sustainable food security and to keep the rural economy alive. On 29 November, agriculture ministers held an initial discussion on the Commission's Communication The CAP towards 2020, thus launching the institutional debate on the subject.
The proposal addresses the new challenges EU agriculture is confronted with. It should continue to ensure food supply for the citizens under the strict European standards, which take into account food safety but also environmental concerns and animal welfare. Increasing globalisation makes for fiercer competition between agricultural producer countries. A reshaping of the system is needed to help farmers cope with situations such as last year's dairy crisis. In addition, more equity is to be introduced in the distribution of support among "old" and "new" member states and among large and small farmers.
For the key issue of direct payments, i.e. payments granted directly to farmers under an income support scheme, the Commission suggests a "layered" approach. Each farmer would receive income support, whereas additional "green" payments would reward those going the extra mile on environmentally-friendly measures, such as turning arable land into permanent pasture. Special support would help farmers in areas with specific natural constraints.
The Council will hold an in-depth debate in December. The new rules resulting from the reform, to be approved by the Council and the European Parliament, should come into effect by 2014.
Press release (pdf)
Webcast of Council debate
CAP explained (pdf)