CAP ‘omnibus’ rules passed by MEPs at plenary in Strasbourg

The European Parliament approved new “omnibus” rules to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from January 2018, at a plenary session in Strasbourg this morning.

The new laws, set to take effect next year, are designed to give farmers: a stronger negotiating position versus supermarkets; better capacity to deal with production and market risks; and more flexibility for member states to help young farmers.

The reforms were approved by 503 votes in favour to 87 against, with 13 abstentions.

Welcoming the news on Twitter, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said the approval will enhance the lives of farmers.

The so-called “Omnibus Regulation” was set up to propose revisions to the EU’s budget (2014-2020), including amendments to the rules and controls within the basic legislation of CAP.

The new rules will allow all recognised farm organisations to plan production and negotiate supply contracts on behalf of its members – without falling foul of the EU’s competition rules.

Collective negotiations have so far been allowed only in a few sectors such as milk, olive oil, beef or cereals.

Farmers will also be more able to protect themselves against market volatility and natural risks such as bad weather conditions, plant pests or animal diseases.

Measures to stabilise farmers’ income will be better tailored to their needs – including an increase in compensation by crop, animal and plant insurance, and from farmer-owned mutual funds.

The commission will also be able to respond faster than before to crises by using exceptional support measures for farmers.

Plus, member states will have more flexibility in defining what constitutes an ‘active farmer’ – thus being eligible for EU farm subsidies. This could also increase top-ups for young farmers – from 25% to 50% of their basic payment for the first 25-90ha. This reform is aimed at making working in an ageing sector more attractive.

Albert Dess, co-ordinator of the EU’s Agriculture and Rural Development committee said: “Today we significantly strengthened farmers’ position in the supply chain, gave farmers better tools against market and production risks and boosted support for the young ones.

This will make our farming policy fairer, simpler, better tailored towards farmers’ needs, and better equipped to deliver food security for EU citizens. New rules will be in place in time to allow our farmers to benefit from these positive changes as quickly as possible.

Paolo De Castro, head of the parliament’s negotiating team said:“The package approved today represents an important result for our farmers – on the one hand, we have solved some of the most pressing problems in current legislation; on the other hand, we offer farmers new opportunities, especially to cope with increasing market volatility.”

An update of EU farming rules still needs to be endorsed by the EU Council before it enters into force on 1 January 2018.