Deal on the agricultural aspects of the Omnibus regulation confirmed
On 16 October 2017 member states represented in the Special Committee on Agriculture endorsed the deal on the so-called Omnibus regulation.
The Omnibus regulation amends the financial regulation governing the implementation of the EU budget as well as 15 sectorial legislative acts, including in the field of agriculture.
The presidency had reached a provisional agreement on the Omnibus regulation with the European Parliament on 12 October.
The agreed rules will simplify the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) through a series of technical improvements to the four CAP regulations: direct payments, rural development, common market organisation and horizontal regulation:
- active farmer: the distinction between active and non-active farmers becomes optional, thereby allowing those member states where it resulted in excessive administrative burden, to discontinue it
- permanent grassland: current rules are modified so as to provide greater flexibility for member states in implementing the requirement
- reduction of payments: the agreement confirms the possibility for member states to review their decisions on the reduction of direct payments on an annual basis
- greening: areas farmed with plant varieties such as silvergrass (miscanthus) and silphion (silphium perfoliotum), as well as land left fallow for melliferous plants will also be considered as ecological focus
- young farmers: payments for young farmers will be granted for five years from the submission date, as long as the submission was made within five years from the setting up of the farm. In addition, member states may increase young farmers’ payments in the first pillar up to 50% within the existing ceilings
- voluntary coupled support: member states will be able to review their decision annually
Common market organisation
- value sharing: the possibility to collectively negotiate value sharing terms in contracts will be extended to sectors other than sugar and will have a voluntary nature
- producer organisation (POs): institutions decided to stick to the status quo concerning the voluntary recognition of POs, the requirement by which their economic activity must be genuine, and the derogation foreseen for the milk sector. The proposal to add a new category of organisations (“bargaining organisations”) was not retained
- POs and competition rules: some POs’ prerogatives such as planning production, optimising production costs, placing on the market and negotiating contracts for the supply of agricultural products on behalf of members, already existing in sectors such as olive oil, beef and arable crops, will be extended to all sectors with a view to improving the position of farmers in the supply chain. In light of such extension, it was also decided to add to the article on producer organisations some safeguards to guarantee that competition is not excluded
- fruit and vegetables’ operational programmes, wine and import quotas: the agreed rules provide for a simplification and technical improvements in these fields
- crisis management: the proposal for a voluntary production reduction scheme in times of crisis was not retained, thereby postponing the debate on the subject to the upcoming review of the CAP post 2020
- income stabilisation tool: while the support linked to the general income stabilisation tool will continue to be triggered when the farmer’s income drops by more than 30% of his/her average annual income, the threshold for the new sector-specific tool will be 20%. Similarly support for insurance contracts which cover for, among others, losses caused by adverse climatic events, will become available when more than 20% of the average annual production of the farmer is destroyed
- financial instruments: several changes are made to the rules to be respected by financial instruments to promote their use and harmonise them with other EU Structural and Investment Funds
- crisis reserve: while no changes were made to the current rules, the Commission undertook in a statement to review the operation of the reserve in the context of the preparations for the next multiannual financial framework with a view to allowing an efficient and timely intervention in times of market crisis
- 50/50 rule: the proposal to eliminate the so-called “50/50 rule” was not retained. Member states and the EU budget will keep sharing equally the financial consequences of sums lost as a result of irregularities and not recovered within a reasonable period
- financial discipline: the existing procedure ensuring that the expenditure under the provisions of the CAP does not exceed the limits specified in the EU budget, was simplified and will be managed by the Commission alone