Potential is there for significant CAP changes post-2020 – McGuinness

Budgetary pressures in the EU and frustration among farmers with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) form the backdrop to potentially significant changes to the CAP post 2020, according to European Parliament Vice-President, Mairead McGuinness.

Furthermore she said that strong lobbying by environmental organisations and a looming Brexit are also factors which could see changes to the CAP.

“This week saw the opening of a real debate about what comes next in EU farm policy, beginning with a discussion on the recently published report of the Agriculture Markets Task Force and a hearing organised by the Rise Foundation in which experts outlined what they see as the way forward.”

Direct per hectare payments are under attack, some experts regard them as badly focused, inequitable and inefficient as a means to support farm incomes and to deliver environmental objectives.

“In addition, there are calls for more measures to target market volatility and in the absence of additional money for the CAP then these measures can only be funded through the existing pool of CAP money.”

McGuinness said that while criticism of the CAP and how payments are delivered is growing, there is also a realisation that cutting payments drastically in a short time frame would not be acceptable.

“What we may be looking at is a change to the current system over time and not overnight.”

The MEP said that she is more concerned about how the likely more enhanced focus on environmental aspects from the CAP will be delivered.

“There is deep frustration with the greening measures from farmers and environmentalists. Among farmers, there is anger about the overly bureaucratic nature of the measures, which many of us warned about during the reform process.

“Furthermore, environmentalists are critical saying that the measure do not deliver on the objectives set.

“If more environments delivery is required, we must be very careful about how this is done and not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

This will require that the Commission shifts its focus away from audits and controls, which frustrates progress and instead finds new ways to deliver on the climate and biodiversity objectives.

Ultimately, these objectives can only be achieved through a more holistic approach to farm management assisted by strong research and advisory systems in member states, the Irish MEP said..

With the CAP debate now underway, she believes it is time for a less divisive debate between farmers and environmentalists.

“We need farmers who are on the ground to produce food and to manage our environment, but they need support, policy certainty and a marketplace, which ensures they are adequately rewarded.

“Regrettably, not all of these requirements are in place and the challenge in the debate, which is now open, is to ensure that if changes are to come that they work with farmers – not against them.”