EU committee approves last batch of ‘farm policy’ proposals

The European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development has approved a batch of proposals for improving EU farm policy, so that “it better meets farmers’ and consumers’ expectations”.

Among the changes that have been agreed are: agricultural crisis reserve funds of at least €400 million; tougher penalties for re-occurring violations of food production rules; and fewer checks on member states’ performance in order to “cut red tape”.

This set of amendments, entitled the ‘Financing, Management and Monitoring Regulation’, was passed by the committee on Monday, April 8; 28 committee members voted in favour, while seven voted against, with two abstentions.

The committee decided that the crisis reserve should be financed as an addition to direct payments and rural development funding under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It was decided that its initial budget should be €400 million.

Furthermore, the committee is of the view that this funding should be topped up year-on-year with unused funds from the previous year, with a limit set at €1.5 billion.

Should this funding prove insufficient, the ‘financial discipline mechanism’ would kick in as “a last resort” to reduce direct payments for farmers, excluding the first €2,000 of the payment.

Tougher penalties

The committee also passed a set of tougher penalties for beneficiaries who do not comply with legal requirements on the environment, animal welfare and food quality.

If these rules are found to have been violated, the resulting cut in entitlements will be raised from 5% to 10%. Beneficiaries will continue to lose 15% if they intentionally flout the rules.

Fewer checks

Responsibilities for checking compliance with these rules will be further devolved to the member states in these new amendments.

MEPs gave their blessing to a shift away from the system of detailed checking of rule compliance to a more “performance-based” one, focused on achieving results as defined in ‘national strategic plans’.

Also, member states will now only have to report on compliance once every two years, instead of every year as is the case now; the purpose of this is to “avoid overburdening national administrations and farmers”.

However, if national control systems prove to be deficient, the European Commission will be entitled to step in and carry out “on-the-spot” checks.

These amendments will only be considered by the full parliament after May’s elections, when a new parliament will be elected.