For half a century, the CAP has helped to build the European Union. At this point in time, a return to basics should be an opportunity for a new long term vision for the CAP to give clear and concrete guidance not only to farmers, but also to millions of citizens. As consistently stated by the Committee, the future CAP should defend the European agricultural model, which is based on the principles of food sovereignty, sustainability and responsiveness to the real needs of European citizens, be they farmers, agricultural employees or consumers.
The EESC welcomes the initial discussions and thoughts about the future of the CAP post-2020. While the objectives of the CAP set out in the Treaty have never been so pertinent, it is of utmost importance to make an in-depth analysis of the current CAP and the result of the previous reform. The purpose of this opinion is to make some suggestions and take part in the reflection on the future of the CAP.
First of all, in view of the complexity of the CAP and the difficulty in implementing the last reform, political stability and a long term vision of agricultural policy are needed by farmers. Especially under the Lisbon Treaty, several years will inevitably be needed to reflect, to share objectives, to discuss challenges and to find solutions. Therefore, the European institutions should quickly agree to extend the term of the current CAP by at least two years.
The CAP calendar should be aligned with the European Parliament elections, with provisions applicable for a 10-year period and the option of a mid-term review every five years. This proposal should give more stability to the farming sector, allow smooth evolution and provide each EP and EC the opportunity to deal with any problems which may occur.
The setting up of young and new men and women farmers should be reinforced in the CAP, not only with specific tools, but with real stability in the policy. Indeed, farmers need more stability to be able to invest for decades and take up the challenge of generational renewal.
The future CAP should take into account, on the one hand, the diversity of farming models and regional specificities, and on the other, the diversity of its objectives: economic, social and environmental. Own food production and own agriculture is important and part of the culture of every nation in the world. A European food policy should be based on healthy and good-quality food and create synergies with the CAP. One of the main principles of the CAP should be to keep agriculture alive and sustainable in all regions of the EU.
Simplification should be the first underlying priority for the next CAP reform. Implementation of the CAP must be smoother and more reasonable control and sanction systems need to be developed. It is of utmost importance to ensure timely payment to farmers.
Considering that the CAP is a policy involving direct intervention at European level, and that the breakdown of Community preference will lead to lower producer prices, the future CAP has to be able to respond to all the challenges it is facing including market turbulence. It is thus necessary to increase the budget for agriculture at European level.
In 2017, the European Commission will take forward its work and consult widely on the simplification and modernisation of the CAP. It is important that European civil society has an active role in this process. The EESC should set up a study group to follow and contribute to this process.