The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) believes a fully-funded, strong Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is essential and rejects any cuts to the CAP budget. The EESC welcomes the legislative proposals on the CAP, with the new focus on increased environmental and climate change ambition, subsidiarity and simplification.
While welcoming the greater freedom the new proposals on subsidiarity would give individual Member States, the EESC is keen to ensure that the CAP remains a common policy with a strong single market.
The EU agriculture and farming sector is essential for ensuring Europe's food security and self-sufficiency and meeting the growing demand for high-quality food. This great responsibility farmers and food producers have towards European citizens requires continued EU support, from a strong CAP with sufficient funds.
No cuts in the CAP budget
The CAP budget should retain its current percentage of 38% funding from the EU budget. This should in turn be increased to 1.3% of gross national income (GNI).
In the Committee's view, any reduction in the CAP budget is unacceptable, underlines John Bryan, rapporteur of this opinion,
since it would undermine the objectives and ambitions of the CAP policy and the EU's resilience in the face of major challenges such as Brexit. Besides, we must not forget that the CAP budget is a major contributor to job and income security in the farming sector, but also to the production of environmental goods which we all benefit from.
Maintaining the current two pillar structure of the CAP is important with Pillar I payments supporting farm incomes and Pillar II for rural development. However, only genuine farmers should receive direct payments. Generational renewal and support to young farmers are important.
Since Pillar II (rural development) funding supports more vulnerable sectors and areas as well as investments, modernisation, learning, resource efficiency and animal welfare, the Committee fervently opposes any cuts in this Pillar.
Any reduction would disproportionately affect Member States where Pillar II makes up a comparatively larger share of overall CAP funding, outlines Mr Bryan.
For a flawless CAP
It is crucial that the CAP policy 2021-2027 help close the gap between farmers' incomes and salaries in the wider economy and meets the needs of the different entities operating in agriculture, like family farming, cooperatives, producer groups and other forms of farming and food production.
The CAP must also take into account the diversity in Europe's agriculture, culinary variety and market prospects, and provide different ways of promoting quality. Future CAP strategic plans must give quality greater prominence. However, the new subsidiarity proposals designed to give Member States more flexibility in achieving specific objectives must not result in renationalisation, thereby allowing Member States to hinder the completion of the single market.
A sustainable, simplified CAP
The EESC welcomes the decision to allocate 40% of agricultural expenditure to the EU's climate change objective, but expects the EU to set out a clearly defined set of measures to achieve its specific environmental and climate objectives. In this respect, farmers should be given a range of measures to choose from, adapted to their specific circumstances. Regarding biodiversity and landscape, including conserving wild birds, natural habitats and wild flora and fauna, the EESC proposes that the EU attach clear quantitative targets to the good environmental and agricultural conditions. These targets should be binding for Member States.
It is essential to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on farmers, while maintaining full and adequate checks.
We believe that a full review and redesign of the farm checks system is necessary to make it more efficient, using advanced technology such as satellite inspection and remote sensing says Mr Bryan.
There is more on the EESC's proposals in its previous opinion CAP legislative proposals, on our website.