The Committee of the Regions hosted a conference and a public hearing on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on March 8th, 2017. Agriculture represents 14 million farms and 46 million jobs in the European Union and the CAP is one of the oldest EU policies. Vice-President Timmermans has asked the COR for an opinion paper on the simplification of the CAP and how this policy should evolve to face the major challenges of agriculture nowadays. In parallel, DG AGRI launched a public consultation on the simplification and modernization of the CAP which will be open until May 2nd, 2017.
Rapporteur Guillaume Cros underlined two main objectives which are 1) Maintaining rural activity and vitality, and 2) Strengthening agricultural economy through more jobs and higher added value. The challenges to overcome to reach these objectives are among others:
- Generational renewal
- Sufficient farmers’ income
- Food security with quality products at a reasonable price,
- Climate change and energy transition
- Balanced territorial development
The opinion will be presented in July plenary session but some of the main points expected to be discussed are already known, namely direct payments, market measures to regulate price volatility, greening, and rural development. You will find the discussion document for the own-initiative opinion on the CAP post-2020 here.
The first session presented the European institutions’ positions. Flavio Coturni from DG AGRI announced a conference in July with the first results from the CAP consultation but also said no communication was to be expected before November or December 2017. No policy change can be implemented before the new multi-annual financial framework is set up. Roderick Galdes representing the Maltese Presidency identified further priorities such as support for resilience in the shape of risk management and financial instruments to ensure reduction of climatic and environmental impacts coming from agricultural sector. All agree for the need of adequate budgetary allocations, stable rules, less administrative burden and more support for innovation. The European Economic and Social Council pointed out the current mismatch between skills and training provided through the educational system and available jobs.
During the discussion time after this first panel, the head of the French delegation in the Committee of the Regions, Jacques Blanc underlined the importance of discussing CAP support for rural mountain areas in the debate. Euromontana also insisted on the necessity of maintaining specific measures for mountain areas that ensure a multifunctional agriculture in these areas, on which we rely not only for food production reasons but also for numerous ecosystem services which mountain areas provide to the whole of society.
In the second panel of expert and professional views, Alan Buckwell from the RISE Foundation stated that integrated land management and risk management are two areas of the CAP in need of reform. According to the recent study published by the RISE Foundation, money should be better handled in order to avoid inefficient and inequitable direct payments still indirectly contributing to climate change. The 2-pillar system was useful to change paradigm towards non-market services (ecosystem services). A multi-annual contractual payment system should now be considered to complete this shift, as a new contract between farmers and consumer/citizen for a healthy and sustainable agriculture. A proposition would be to have a basic tier to make basic arrangements, a 2nd tier for disadvantaged areas and 3rd tier to incentivise ecosystem services payments.
Guillaume Cros concluded the event insisting on how important it is to maintain the CAP but also to reform it by rethinking direct payments, youth education, land prices, and reconquering consumers. However, rural vitality does not only depend on the CAP but also on other sectors such as culture, transport, health services, … He supported the proposition to have a specific Rural Agenda as promoted by Euromontana, the Committee of the Regions and different organisations from the civil society, as well as maintaining Cohesion Funds.3 April 2017