Common Agriculture Policy for 2021-2027
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Not only does the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contradict the intentions as outlined under the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, environmental organisations have called it the “kiss of death” to nature. The current reform of the CAP for the 2021-2027 period in itself undermines the entire European Green Deal, and the credibility of the EU’s institutions. We call for a CAP that enables society to bring back nature onto agricultural land, rather than one that pollutes and destroys the environment.
At the start of the CAP, in 1962, the aim was to unite European countries around a common policy, avoiding competition and conflict. But most of all to increase the productivity of agriculture by developing technological progress. Since then, productivity has remained the central objective of European policy. This is evidenced by the CAP’s redistribution policy, unquestioned under the 2021-2027 proposal. The policy prioritizes quantity over quality, as subsidies are calculated on the number of hectares of the farm. As a result, today, 80% of the EU’s agricultural subsidies are distributed to 20% of farmers. This is absolutely unacceptable when we know that small production systems, promoting agro-ecology and organic farming principles, are very promising for biodiversity: for ecological services and also for environmental and economic resilience. Their low impact helps to improve soil health, boosts biodiversity and invigorates rural communities.
As long as the principle of quantity of quality is in force, the marginal reform systems proposed by the Commission to “increase national environmental and climate-care action”, such as eco-schemes, will never be actually effective. In addition, these “innovative systems” don’t change anything: the percentage for eco-schemes (30%) is the exact same as the green subsidies under the previous CAP! According to Eric Andrieu, member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament, such eco-schemes also represent a threat. Namely, by the translation of the CAP by Member States into national policy, in which Member States re-design the eco-schemes for agricultural practices rather than practices with added value for nature. In addition to a collective European disregard for responsibilities, the new CAP could enable agricultural dumping, and incite competition between Member States. The Common Agriculture Policy would no longer be “common”.
Enabling change also means mobilizing significant resources needed for this change. And once again Europe is not up to the environmental challenge. The budget of the new CAP voted last July reduced (nearly 340 billion EUR) compared to the last 2014-2020 (nearly 380 billion EUR). The first pillar, allocated to payments that directly affects farmers’ incomes, fell around 50 billion EUR. The second Pillar of the CAP, which is supposed to accelerate the ecological transition, only increased by roughly 10 billion EUR. For farmers, this 10 billion will be insufficient to enforce the new environmental measures asked by the Von der Leyen Commission.
We ask ourselves, how could we demand farmers to put in significant sustainability efforts without providing them the necessary resources to do so? How does the Commission believe it will be ever possible to “bring nature back to agriculture land”?
THE EU 2030 BIODIVERSITY STRATEGY
In the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Commission devotes a significant section on “Bringing nature back to agricultural land”. Designating farmers as “guardians of biodiversity,” the EU Commission insisted on the necessity to avoid “certain agriculture practices” responsible for biodiversity loss and to “work with farmers to support the transition to fully sustainable practices.” We greatly welcome these proposals under the Biodiversity Strategy. Moreover, the EU underlined the necessity for the Biodiversity Strategy to “work in tandem with the new Farm to Fork Strategy and the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).”
This, however, is exactly where the problem lies in the Commission’s proposals! How could the Biodiversity Strategy ever work in tandem with the CAP when they aspire almost opposite objectives!?
CALL FOR ACTION
In our Call For Action, we have called the EU to mobilize financial and legislative resources for biodiversity (especially for civil societies and small businesses) along with the elimination of incentives for harmful practices; the recognition of ecosystem services as the main driver of economic and human well-being; and capacity building and empowerment of all in the decision-making process.
In this context, we specifically urge the Commission and the Parliament who is currently voting on the text to:
Enable farmers to shift from productivist and ultraliberal system by abolishing the principle of agricultural subsidies per hectare.
Enable farmers and the whole society to reshape its relation with nature by favouring small and sustainable agro-ecological farms which allow for a better understanding of nature, and act as a crucial link between land and local communities.
Enable the CAP to be efficient and ambitious by increasing the CAP budget and especially the second pillar for an accelerated ecological transition.
Written by one of our baes at Biodiversity Action Europe.