Opinion

Is the CAP falling apart at the seams?

Two months ago, EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos referred to the steps taken by him to provide support for those EU Member States most directly affected by the Russian food ban as firm evidence that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is working effectively.

At the time we flagged up the view that the EU had no right to take CAP funds and use them as a means of compensating farmers in the wake of geo-political decisions involving Brussels and one of the world’s most powerful trading powers. Those monies should have come from other funding sources within the EU.

All of that was bad enough. However, the recent move by the EU Commission to reallocate €448.5million from the 2015 CAP budget to other non-agricultural projects adds insult to injury. It now seems that Brussels can breach all of the rules and play with the CAP in whichever way it feel is appropriate, without as much as a by-your-leave. This is, fundamentally, wrong and calls into question the very ethos of what constitutes a common support policy for agriculture in Europe.

The reality is that the new CAP support measures were already due to deliver a decisive reduction in funding levels over the next five years.Yes, the tinkering around that we have witnessed in Brussels over recent days adds insult to injury in this regard. But it also flags up a principal,which is much more sinister in nature.

For years, farmers have been told that they must not break the rules, when it comes to meeting the criteria laid down for the various EU support schemes. In the past, the various cross compliance measures would have stood out in this regard. And, of course, now we can add greening to the list. And, this is the way it should be. But bending the rules is a principle that must be adhered to by all the parties involved – and that includes the EU Commission. Everyone has to play fair, otherwise the systems put in place to support EU farmers will fall asunder

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