EU must find money to finance both old and new priorities, Agriculture MEPs say
EU’s farm policy must be properly financed after 2020 to be able to deliver food security to nearly half a billion EU citizens, Agriculture Committee said in a vote on Tuesday.
The EU must increase or at the very least maintain the current level of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) spending after 2020 to ensure fair income for farmers, protect rural jobs, bring about innovation and implement the Paris climate change agreement, Agriculture MEPs say in an opinion for the Budget Committee on the future EU’s long-term budget. Any further cuts to the CAP budget would undermine the competitiveness of the EU’s agricultural sector and hit EU’s farming communities and rural areas, they warn.
The CAP is vital to produce high-quality food at affordable prices for EU citizens, ensure territorial balance, social cohesion and sustainability of rural areas, says the approved text. And while the EU’s oldest policy has evolved over the years, for instance to increase animal welfare and food safety standards and to make farming more sustainable and environmentally friendly, its budget has been continuously reduced, it adds.
The EU must respond now to various crises that recently hit many sensitive farming sectors, such as milk, pork, fruits and vegetables by increasing their support both financially and by providing farmers with new instruments to deal with price volatility and production risks, MEPs say. And even though the EU will also have to find money to deal with other new challenges, such as migration, security and defence, it must find ways, e.g. through developing new own resources, to finance both its traditional and new priorities, they insist.
Brexit: Filling the budget hole
To fill the CAP budget gap after Brexit, the Commission should work on alternative forms of financing, MEPs say. They want member states to increase their contributions to the EU budget but also insist on developing new forms of EU’s own resources in line with conclusions of the High Level Group on Own Resources (HLGOR).
Develop new EU’s own resources
In a separate opinion for the Budget Committee on the reform of EU’s own resources Agriculture MEPs stress that the EU budget must be made more transparent, stable, simple, coherent, fair and predictable. They welcome HLGOR proposals, such as to reform VAT own resource and the EU emissions trading scheme, to introduce CO2 levy, transport and electricity taxation and to get revenues from digital single market but insist that member states’ contributions must remain the main source for the EU budget.
MEPs also call for phasing out all forms of rebates and insist on fairer distribution of payments among and within member states.
Don’t touch direct payments and forget renationalising CAP
Direct payments must be kept intact as they help to avoid distortion of competition within the EU and keep EU farm products internationally competitive, MEPs insist. They also vehemently oppose any moves to introduce national co-financing as that would upset the functioning of the single market.
The approved text also calls for targeted support to those farmers most in need, including family and small ones, and to farms in areas of natural constraints. MEPs also reiterated their call for an EU law to combat unfair practices in the food supply chain and insisted on boosting farmers’ bargaining power.
“Today’s vote sends a strong signal to the Commission that the agricultural sector is one of the most important pillars of the European Union and that it needs to be adequately financed”, said rapporteur for the opinion on the next Multiannual Financial Framework Sofia Ribeiro (EPP, PT).
“We are against attempts to renationalize CAP or any national co-financing of direct payments. In times of Brexit we need more Europe to defend the CAP and to ensure that our farmers can continue to produce high-quality food at affordable prices for EU consumers. We now expect the EU Commission to come up with an ambitious proposal that would defend our farmers and European agriculture”, she added.
“We need an in-depth reform of the own resources system, including new own resources that could reduce the share of GNI-based contributions, which accounted for 65.4% of the Union’s revenue in 2016, and a phase-out of all forms of rebate. The current system, which includes complex and opaque correction mechanisms and contributes to the lack of sufficient payment appropriations each year, has to end”, said rapporteur for the opinion on the EU’s own resources Nicola Caputo (S&D, IT).
“New own resources are also needed to reinforce the cohesion between member states, compensate the loss in revenue of €9 to €12 billion a year due to the Brexit and avoid the potential spending cuts to the CAP”, he added.
Agriculture Committee approved its opinion on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) by 32 votes in favour to three against, with five abstentions.
Opinion on the reform of the EU’s own resources was adopted by 28 votes in favour to seven against, with five abstentions.
Both opinions could be scrutinised by the Budget Committee already in late February and then in March by the Parliament as a whole.
Tuesday, 23 January 2018
Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
In the chair: Czesław Adam Siekierski (EPP, PL)