new national strategic plans system delayed until 2020
min 20% of direct payments, 30% of rural development budget for environmental actions
capping direct payments at €100.000, channelling min 5% of direct payments to SMEs
internal convergence: 75% by 2024, 100% by 2027
further support for small, young, new and women farmers
The Agriculture Committee approved the second batch of proposals to improve EU farm policy so that it better meets farmers’ and consumers’ expectations.
The second vote on CAP reform focussed on the new general EU rules for direct payments and rural development after 2020. The Agriculture Committee’s amendments to the so-called Strategic Plans regulation were approved on Tuesday by 27 votes in favour to 17 against, with one abstention.
Strategic plans: New delivery model postponed until 2022
The so-called new delivery model based on national strategic plans to be drafted by member states and approved by the EU Commission, should be delayed by one year until 2022 to allow more time for adjustment, the Agriculture Committee said.
Extending eco-schemes to protect animal welfare too
The voluntary eco-schemes, to be included in national strategic plans, should support not only practices beneficial to the environment, climate but also to animal welfare, MEPs say. They ask the Commission to draft a catalogue of such practices as an inspiration for national capitals. MEPs want to dedicate at least 30% of the rural development budget to all types of environmental and climate-related measures and not less than 20% of the direct payments budget to eco-schemes.
Reducing payments to bigger farms, supporting small, young and women farmers
Member states should be obliged to cap annual direct payments to farmers at the level of €100.000 but they may allow farmers to deduct 50% of agriculture-related salaries, including taxes and social contribution, from the total amount before the reduction, MEPs say.
At least 5% of national direct payments envelope should be allocated for complementary redistributive income support to small and medium-sized farmers (maximum 65% top-up per ha). States using more than 10% of their direct payments budget for this support scheme, may decide not to apply the capping mechanism at all, says the adopted text.
EU states should use at least 2% of their direct payments budgets to support young farmers. The per-ha top-up should be granted for the first seven years after the application. Further support could be granted from the rural development funding and member states could support young farmers’ investments, including land purchase, as a priority, MEPs say.
MEPs also want member states to adopt specific actions to promote greater inclusion and involvement of women in rural economies and to use rural development funding to this end.
Boosting farm advisory services
MEPs endorsed Commission’s plan to oblige all member states to set up farm advisory services to inform farmers about all subsidies-related requirements and conditions, ways to prevent antimicrobial resistance and availability of innovation support and digital technologies. But they want properly trained advisors to also help farmers improve their competitiveness, production and ecological practices, to advice them on producer organisations and farm safety, to assist those who set up for the first time or who want to change their production, to help them reduce the use of fertilisers, sustainably manage nutrients and better adapt to climate change.
Active farmers to be defined by member states
Active farmers, i.e. persons eligible for EU direct payments, should be defined by member states in a way to ensure that no support is granted to those whose agricultural activity forms only an insignificant part of their overall economic activities. Such a definition, MEPs insist, must preserve the EU’s family farming model. Companies, but not groups of farmers, carrying out large scale processing of agricultural produce could be excluded, they add.
Levelling direct payments within member states
Member states should ensure that all per ha direct payments within their territories reach at least 75% of their average direct subsidies by 2024 and 100% by 2027.
Transferring money between pillars
MEPs endorsed Commission’s proposal to allow transfer of 15% of direct payments envelope to the rural development budget but added a condition that the transferred money must be used for eco-schemes. No other transfer from the first to the second pillar should be allowed, they say.
Transfers from the rural development to the direct payments envelope should be limited to 5%, not 15% as proposed by the Commission, MEPs said. They want to grant an exception only to Croatia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, who could transfer up to 15% of money from the second to the first pillar on condition that 5% would be dedicated to eco-schemes.
“I tried to strike a balance between supporting farmers and the protecting the environment. Green architecture has been strengthened, putting a stronger accent on an incentive-based approach. A fairer distribution of the payments has been proposed to support farming SMEs”, said rapporteur Esther Herranz García (EPP, ES).
“The key priority was to safeguard the common rules to protect EU policy and treat farmers across the EU equally and avoid market distortion while giving more leeway to member states to adapt to their particular domestic situations. The committee has also insisted on maintaining the CAP budget at its current level and I hope the EU governments support our call to maintain a strong CAP”, she added.
The text approved by Agriculture Committee MEPs has to be scrutinised by the Parliament as a whole. This can happen only after the 23-26 May European elections. The Conference of Presidents (EP president and leaders of political groups) may decide then to forward the text to the full House. Otherwise, the new Agriculture Committee will have to look into the matter again.