‘I want farmers not alone to survive, but to thrive’

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, today defended the commission’s recently published communication on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform post-2020.

Commissioner Hogan was speaking at the opening of the 2017 EU Agricultural Outlook Conference in Brussels this morning.

He took the opportunity to address the initial reaction he has received in light of the publication of the communication, entitled ‘The Future of Food and Farming’.

The communication outlined guidelines on a new-look CAP that will provide for “simpler rules and a more flexible approach”.

Also Read: CAP 2020: More responsibility for member states, but power still lies with the commission

Commenting on the communication, Commissioner Hogan said: “I have listened to the reservations from various quarters and I fully appreciate that what we are proposing is a significant step-change, given that it will change the respective relationships between the commission, the member state and the beneficiaries.

“In terms of addressing those reservations, I and my services are fully committed to working with member states over the coming months to ensure the necessary clarifications are provided and that – in the context of preparing the legislative proposal, in which the details of the new delivery model will be fully spelt out – full account is taken of those concerns and, where necessary, that the necessary reassurances are given.”

Commissioner Hogan also dismissed any suggestions that the commission was “shirking” its responsibilities in what some people described as the “renationalisation of the CAP”.

Budgetary concerns

The commissioner took time to outline that there will be a gap in the EU budget of approximately €12 billion as a result of Brexit.

“You are all aware that the commission will present a proposal on the MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) for the next programming period in 2018. Of course, it will be the European Council and the European Parliament that will ultimately decide the budget.

“In doing so, they will have to consider the gap left by the departure from the EU of the UK as well as the other budgetary challenges and see how that gap can be closed and whether, for example, member states are prepared to increase the contribution from 1% to 1.1% or 1.2% of GNI (gross national income).

I believe that we need a well-funded budget for the CAP so that the policy can continue to deliver the objectives which are in the interests not just of farmers but for society as a whole.

“As the CAP evolves with a greater focus on the provision of public goods, we should see the CAP as a policy for all the people of Europe,” the commissioner said.

Concluding, Commissioner Hogan said: “Farmers are many things – suppliers of food and our environmental boots on the ground. They are an essential component of our society and we need them.

“I want farmers not alone to survive, but to thrive. I want farmers to stay on the land; not alone for their sakes, but for the sake of society – for whose benefit those farmers provide public goods.

I want farmers not alone to be the ‘first stewards’ of the countryside, but to be the bedrock of vibrant, viable rural communities in which people will aspire to live and do business.

“Food can only be produced sustainably by well-qualified farmers with top-class policy tools and the assistance of research and innovation. That is the orientation for the future.”