EU agriculture ministers agree position on next CAP

The EU’s Council of Agriculture Ministers has agreed its position on the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

This agreed position puts forward commitments from member states for “higher environmental ambition” with instruments like mandatory eco-schemes and enhanced conditionality.

The council’s position (which was agreed in the early hours of this morning) would allow member states to have flexibility in how they would reach environmental goals. For example, there would be a two-year pilot phase for eco-schemes, and member states would have flexibility on how to allocate funds under different “green practices”.

The agreed position gives the council as a whole a negotiating position to take into talks with the European Parliament, which is due to decide its position on CAP this week as well.

Julia Klochner, the German agriculture minister (who has led the council meetings in the last two days as Germany currently holds the European presidency), said: “Today’s agreement is a milestone for Europe’s agricultural policy.

“Member states demonstrated their ambition for higher environmental standards in farming and at the same time supported the needed flexibility in ensuring farmers’ competitiveness. This agreement fulfils the aspiration of a greener, fairer and simpler CAP,” Klochner added.

A “new delivery model” in CAP would “favour performance over compliance”, the council said, and would allow countries to “choose the best tools and actions at their disposal, and also taking into account national specificities”.

It was agreed that farmers would receive financial support under the condition that they “adopt practices beneficial for the climate and the environment, to make the CAP even greener than before”.

As well as that, eco-schemes will be used to provide additional support to farmers who are going beyond the basic environment and climate requirements.

The eco-schemes would be linked to a dedicated budget that would be part of the direct payments budget. This part of the budget will be “ring-fenced” and will need to be “unlocked” through the use of eco-schemes.

The council said that an initial pilot phase of two years for eco-schemes “would ensure” that member states avoid losing funds while getting acquainted with the new instruments.

Examples of eco-schemes would include practices like precision farming, agroforestry, and organic farming, but member states would be free to design their own instruments on the basis of their needs.

All farmers would be bound to higher environmental standards in the next CAP, including smaller farmers. To help them in this greening transition, small farmers would be subject to more simplified controls, thereby reducing administrative burden.

Attention now turns to the European Parliament to see what its decision on CAP will be.