A strong CAP policy, with a strong CAP budget based on the European Model of Agriculture and Food Production, supporting an economically socially and environmentally sustainable European agriculture policy and farming sector involving the highest standards, and contributing to ensuring a competitive agricultural sector, is very important for the European Union and all its citizens. Modernising and simplifying the CAP in this reform is essential to make it more fit for purpose to meet the needs for a more sustainable and viable EU farming and agriculture sector everywhere in Europe and in order to address the new challenges on climate change and the environment.
Proposals to reduce the CAP budget are unacceptable. The maintenance of an appropriate financial envelope for the CAP is a precondition for the sustainability (economic, environmental and social) of EU farming in order to preserve incomes and jobs and ensure the production of environmental public goods, thus contributing decisively to the vitality of the rural environment and to the stability of the economy as a whole. The EESC supports the view that the EU budget should be increased to 1.3% of GNI to provide adequate funding for the CAP and the new policy objectives and challenges identified.
The EESC welcomes the new direction proposed for CAP on subsidiarity, with greater responsibility and flexibility for Member States through the CAP Strategic Plans and new delivery model based on performance. However, the EESC is keen to ensure that the CAP remains a strong common policy across all Member States and that the single market is fully preserved. Maintaining the current two-pillar CAP structure with strong direct payments under Pillar I to support farm incomes and rural development measures in Pillar II to support vulnerable sectors and regions and foster the transition to more sustainable and innovative farms is essential. The common organisation of the markets and an effective single market are also critical.
The increased emphasis and higher ambition in the CAP proposals on the environment and climate change is positive. The specific objectives are clear and strong, covering key issues like water, air and soil as well as landscape and biodiversity, and the sustainable production of quality food. An adequate CAP budget is essential to deliver on these objectives, with proper incitative payments for farmers.
Having been promised in several previous reforms of the CAP, the EESC is strongly of the view that the commitments on simplification at farm level must be delivered in this reform. However, the EESC is concerned that the new subsidiarity and conditionality involving CAP strategic plans for both CAP Pillar I and II and additional Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Environmental and Agricultural Conditions (GAEC) will increase rather than reduce the volume of bureaucratic burden on individual farmers.
CAP Pillar I direct payments and Pillar II funding must be fully protected to ensure viable and sustainable farms. Direct payments should only go to genuine farmers and clear objective criteria should be adopted at EU level to better define a genuine farmer.
Increased support for generational renewal and young farmers is positive. This increase in aid must be accompanied by additional measures that allow for effective generational renewal.
Any proposals on internal or external convergence, flattening, degressivity and redistribution must be based on objective criteria and cannot be allowed to undermine viable farm units and erode fair competition conditions or farmers' competitiveness in the various regions of the EU.
Any cuts to CAP Pillar II funding are unacceptable, as a strong Rural Development Programme is critical to support more vulnerable areas and sectors and lead to more balanced territorial development.