The vision for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 moved one step closer this morning, with the publication of the EU’s highly-anticipated White Paper on ‘The Future of Food and Farming’.

The paper, presented by EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan in Brussels, outlines guidelines on a new-look policy that will provide for “simpler rules and a more flexible approach“.

The paper confirms that a support system based on direct payments will continue.

However, future supports  will be based more on results than compliance.

Commissioner Hogan also revealed that a new CAP implementation system will be introduced to give member states a much greater degree of subsidiarity (more autonomy).

EU officials are confident that such changes will ensure that CAP “delivers real results in supporting farmers and leads the sustainable development of EU agriculture”.

A key change to be implemented will be to give greater responsibilities to member states individually, allowing them more freedom to choose how and where to invest their CAP funding to meet ambitious common goals on environment, climate change and sustainability.

The communication – which was adopted today by the European Commission – is titled ‘The Future of Food and Farming’, and outlines ways to ensure that the oldest EU common policy remains “future-proof”.

Jyrki Katainen, European Commission vice-president in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “The Common Agricultural Policy has been on our plate since 1962.

“While we have to make sure it keeps delivering, for example, healthy and tasty food for consumers and jobs and growth to rural areas, the CAP also has to evolve along with other policies.

“Our proposal is an important step to modernise and simplify the CAP, following the results of the broad consultation with stakeholders.

The new delivery model introduced by the commission will provide greater subsidiarity to member states and calls them to establish ‘CAP Strategic Plans’; which will cover their actions under Pillar I and Pillar II – enabling simplification, better coherence and monitoring of results.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “Today’s communication ensures that the Common Agricultural Policy will deliver on new and emerging objectives – such as fostering a smart and resilient agricultural sector; bolstering environmental care and climate action; and strengthening the social-economic fabric of rural areas.

He said it also marks a significant step change in the implementation of the CAP.

Instead of the current system, a new implementation system will be introduced, giving member states/regions a much greater degree of subsidiarity.

While keeping the current two-pillar structure, the “simpler, more flexible” approach will set out the detailed actions to reach these objectives agreed at the EU level.

Each EU country would then develop their own strategic plan – which would be approved by the commission – to establish how they intend to meet the objectives.

Rather than on compliance, the attention will be paid more on monitoring progress and ensuring funding is focused on concrete results.

According to the commission, this move from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ to a tailor-made approach means the policy and its real-life implications will be “closer to those who implement it on the ground”.

Farmer supports will continue through direct payments

It was confirmed that supports for farmers will continue through the direct payments system.

It was stressed in the announcement that the communication neither pre-empts the outcome of the debate on the future of the EU finances; nor the content of its proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

A more ambitious approach will be brought in for resource efficiency, environmental care and climate action.

Other proposals made in the announcement include:
  • Encouraging the use of modern technologies to support farmers on the ground and provide greater market transparency and certainty;
  • Greater attention to encourage young people to take up farming, to be coordinated with Member States’ own powers in such areas as land taxation, planning and skills development;
  • Address citizens’ concerns regarding sustainable agricultural production, including health, nutrition, food waste and animal welfare;
  • Seek coherent action among its policies in line with its global dimension, notably on trade, migration and sustainable development;
  • Creating an EU-level platform on risk management on how best to help farmers cope with the uncertainty of climate, market volatility and other risks.

The relevant legislative proposals giving effect to the goals outlined in the communication will be tabled by the EU Commission before summer 2018, following the MFF proposal.

Cap consultation process

Last February, the European Commission launched a consultation on the future of CAP in order to better understand where the current policy could be simplified and modernised.

During the three month consultation period, the European Commission received more than 320,000 replies – mostly from individuals.

The consultation found that most respondents wanted to keep a strong CAP policy at European Union level; but that it needed to be simpler and more flexible; and more focused on meeting the key challenges of ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers, preserving the environment and tackling climate change.