New CAP eco-schemes ‘a game-changer’ – Hogan

The proposed eco-schemes – part of the post-2020 Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reforms – will be a “a game-changer in many parts of the European Union”. That’s according to Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development committee last month, Commissioner Hogan outlined the details of these new aspects of the CAP, which target the environment and climate change.

The commissioner highlighted that the eco-schemes will be funded from the CAP Pillar I budget which, he said, means it would “require zero financing from the member states”.

They will work essentially through annual obligations, rather than multi-annual commitments. This makes it possible to support farmers who wish to test the water for a year or two, and then they can opt out without any loss of income.

The former Fine Gael TD also claimed that the new policy would be simplified and less reliant on complex regulations and exemptions.

“We’re talking about eco-schemes being mandatory for member states but voluntary for farmers, having an incentivised approach rather than a prescriptive, rules-based approach,” he explained.

Commissioner Hogan added that member states would have a greater degree of flexibility over the form of the payments which, he argued, would make the schemes more appetising for farmers.

Member states will have flexibility over the form taken by payments. This will often make it easier to offer clear incentives to farmers.

“Given that member states will also decide the content of their eco-schemes, according to individual situations, I believe eco-schemes could be a game-changer in many parts of the European Union,” he added.

The commissioner also addressed the issue of so-called ‘carbon sinks’, which he said need to be maintained, and that the new CAP would ensure that.

“I believe that the new content that is proposed strikes a balance. For example, for wetlands and peatlands, which are major carbon sinks, [these] have to be protected,” he said.

Commissioner Hogan also said that he was resisting calls to include “substantial extra detail” in the rules for intervention types – such as what type of payments climate commitments may support – because, he said, “I don’t want to make the policy more complex”.

He also argued that area-based payments were not necessarily the “whole story” for the new policy.

“To really improve results; we need investment in resource efficiency; we need training and advice; we need innovation; and we need to see farmers and other stakeholders working together,” the commissioner argued.