CAP reform: 20% of direct payments budget earmarked for eco-schemes

Voluntary eco-schemes are to come much more centre-stage under Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposals backed by the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Under the proposals given the green light today, Tuesday, April 2, voluntary eco-schemes – which are to be included in national strategic plans – should support not only practices beneficial to the environment and climate but also to animal welfare, agri committee MEPs say.

The agri committee has asked the commission to draft a catalogue of such practices as an inspiration for national capitals.

The committee has also pushed for the CAP budget to be maintained at its current levels and for member state governments to step up to the plate in terms of funding.

In a significant development, MEPs want to dedicate at least 30% of the rural development budget to all types of environmental and climate-related measures and not less than 20% of the direct payments budget to eco-schemes.

The topic of transferring money between CAP pillars (Pillar I for direct payments and Pillar II for rural development) was also covered in today’s vote.

MEPs endorsed the European Commission’s proposal to allow a transfer of 15% of countries’ direct payments envelope to the rural development budget – but added a condition that the transferred money must be used for eco-schemes.

No other transfer from the first to the second pillar should be allowed, the committee ruled.

Transfers from the rural development to the direct payments envelope should be limited to 5%, not 15% as proposed by the commission, MEPs said.

They want to grant an exception only to Croatia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, who could transfer up to 15% of money from the second to the first pillar on condition that 5% would be dedicated to eco-schemes.

Rapporteur of today’s proposals, MEP Esther Herranz García, said: “I tried to strike a balance between supporting farmers and protecting the environment.

“Green architecture has been strengthened, putting a stronger accent on an incentive-based approach. A fairer distribution of the payments has been proposed to support farming SMEs.

“The key priority was to safeguard the common rules to protect EU policy and treat farmers across the EU equally and avoid market distortion while giving more leeway to member states to adapt to their particular domestic situations.

The committee has also insisted on maintaining the CAP budget at its current level and I hope the EU governments support our call to maintain a strong CAP.

Regarding the next steps, the text approved by Agriculture Committee MEPs has to be scrutinised by the parliament as a whole.

This can happen only after the May 23-26 European elections. The Conference of Presidents (EP president and leaders of political groups) may decide then to forward the text to the full house.

Otherwise, the new Agriculture Committee will have to look into the matter again.