EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, has urged EU member states to design “ambitious” Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans that will make a strong contribution to the the future of rural areas, and that will fight against environmental, biodiversity, and climate challenges.

The commissioner was addressing a webinar for European agricultural journalists on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its new green agenda this week.

In June 2021, EU agriculture ministers reached a provisional agreement with the European Parliament on a new CAP that will:

  • Commit member states to social and labour rights of agricultural workers;
  • Encourage farmers to use greener farming practices;
  • Support smaller farms and younger farmers;
  • Better link support to farms’ results and performance.

As part of the new CAP, each member state is required to form a strategic plan for the period 2023-2027, which will set out how EU financial support will be implemented, in line with with broader CAP objectives – essentially, how CAP will work in each country.

This is a break from traditional CAP, which was prescriptive in the way member states could apply it. The new CAP offers member states a bit more freedom to choose how its CAP budget is spent.

Currently, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is developing Ireland’s strategic plan, which is monitored by the European Commission.

This strategic plan’s public consultation has ended and the next phase is the completion of the legal text of the strategy.

“This agreement on the legal text is a first but crucial step towards a CAP that effectively responds to farmers’ needs and society’s expectations,” the commissioner said, adding that it offers member states the chance to align their agricultural sectors with the goals of the European Green Deal.

Each strategy is expected to be completed at the end of 2021, followed by a review process.

CAP eco-schemes

The strategic plan is an important tool in achieving a greener CAP, and in helping to meet our climate targets at the same time, through the new CAP’s ‘green architecture’ component.

“The enhanced conditionality of the new CAP provides a stronger baseline of environmental standards to protect the natural resources that are essential for agriculture,” the commissioner said.

He added that there will be a wide range of interventions to support farmers’ uptake of sustainable-farming practices.

“By ring-fencing 25% of direct payments envelopes for eco-schemes and 35% of rural development funds for agri-environmental commitments, we have set aside a great deal of financial resources for the transition to sustainable farming models across large areas of Europe’s farmland,” he said.

He added that eco-schemes will recognise and reward farmers for the services they provide to society.

“They can be used to address the real-life costs and real-life benefits of actions to protect biodiversity, natural resources, and the climate, as well as animal welfare.

“Eco-schemes have the added potential to provide an extra boost for small- and medium-sized farmers who undertake these actions.”

Overall, he said, the new green architecture is a “clear political signal from the EU” to act more decisively in the face of our environmental and climate challenges.

Sustainable future

Through this, he said that member states can build “sustainable agricultural sectors that will stand the test of time” .

“From member states, we need determination and ambition in their strategic plans.

We must use this opportunity to do things better than we did in the past – there can be no simple copy-paste of existing measures.

We must step up efforts and maximise the social, environmental, and economic potential of the new legislation,” said Commissioner Wojciechowski.