Alyn On CAP Reform

12 October 2011
"AND THEY'RE...FINALLY... OFF!"

SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today (Wednesday) praised the long-awaited and much leaked unveiling of the formal proposals to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as a solid start to the negotiating process, and issued a briefing to Scots organisations with a call for them to get "all over this" to ensure we get the best result we can.
 
EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos formally outlined the proposals to the Agriculture Committee in Parliament this morning.
 
Alyn said:

"Finally, the shadow boxing is over, and after all those reports, declarations and deliberations which some were so keen to present as of earth-shattering importance, we can now get down to business.
 
"On our initial scan of the documents, they are little changed from the various leaked versions we have seen over the summer.  I could fall back on clichés like 'the devil will be in the detail' but when is it not?  This is a complicated package and we will need to model the various proposals properly to see what works best.
 
"On balance, I like the tone of the proposals in their aim, but am nervous that for every lofty ambition there will need to be a complicated and expensive paper-chase to create a scheme that works.  We risk replacing an already admin-heavy CAP with an even more burdensome paper-chase.
 
"On greening, I see little to dislike.  7% set aside is a way of actually rewarding existing practice of putting unproductive scraps of land to ecological purposes.  I've yet to see a farm that is 100% productive, so opposition from some to this proposal seems to me to miss the point that it will reward current best practice and change little on the ground.
 
"There are some additional LFA wrinkles, including a new criterion related to "Limited Soil Drainage" which sounds pretty familiar to Scottish ears.  That will need some thinking too, but we have a solid history on using LFA well so I am confident the new criteria will work for us with a bit of tweaking.
 
"I urge all organisations to get all over this.  Scotland has only a few representatives in these negotiations and we will need all the support we can get.  I'm confident that Scotland is at the mainstream of European agricultural thinking, and confident too that we can build allies for our goal of a profitable, productive and sustainable EU agricultural sector."

The initial brief, which has been produced as a summary only to inform discussion and is not intended to replace the source documents (available on request from Laura Rayner) is reproduced below:

CAP REFORM PROPOSALS

The legislative package for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is split into four main regulations.

  1. Direct Payments - the rules governing the distribution of direct support to farmers under Pillar I (rapporteur Luis Capoulas Santos, Portugal, Socialist)
  2. Rural Development - the rules governing the programmes of Member States and regions for Pillar II of the CAP (rapporteur Luis Capoulas Santos, Portugal, Socialist)
  3. The Single CMO - the rules governing European intervention programmes in agricultural markets for a wide range of agricultural products (rapporteur Michel Dantin, France, EPP)
  4. Financing, Management and Monitoring of the CAP - the so-called "horizontal regulation" which deals with cross-cutting issues mainly including rules on financing and rules on cross compliance and control systems (rapporteur Giovanni La Via, Italy, EPP)

The Direct Payments and Rural Development regulations, together with the cross compliance aspects of the horizontal regulation, will be of most importance and interest to Scotland.

No formal timetable has been drawn up for passage through the Agriculture Committee, but a vote has been pencilled in for either the meeting just before or just after the summer recess 2012.  There will likely be thousands of amendments in all languages of the EU, causing necessary delays for translation and for compromise amendment meetings.  A political deal with Council will most likely be required before the end of 2012 to give time for the new rules to be ready for implementation at the start of 2014.  AGRI Committee will spend between now and Christmas engaged in several hearings on the proposals with stakeholders, scientific experts and the Council.

  • The Commission have proposed a continuation of direct payments to farmers.  These payments will be based on an objective hectare basis, which all Member States and regions must transfer to by 2019.  Attempts have been made to focus payments better on "active farmers" i.e. those who earn more than 5% of their income from agriculture, and who respect minimum activity requirements.  Individual payments will be capped at 300,000 EUR with reductions of payments from 150,000 EUR up.
  • There will be a series of "top up payments" within the first pillar.  Farmers must participate in enhanced greening practices in order to receive their basic payment, namely crop diversification (three crops, no less than 5% and no more than 70% of the land), maintaining permanent pasture, and maintaining ecological focus areas (7% of eligible hectares for fallow land, buffer strips etc).  Farmers only have to do the practices "which are relevant for them".
  • Member States may grant an additional payment to farmers in Less Favoured Areas worth up to 5% of the national ceiling.  Up to 2% of the national ceiling will be used as an additional annual payment for young farmers commencing their agricultural activity for a maximum of 5 years.  Smaller farmers will also have the opportunity to participate in a simplified scheme replacing all direct payments, worth between 500 EUR and 1000 EUR.  Coupled support for vulnerable regions and sectors, including for sheep meat and beef, will continue.
  • In Pillar II, the Less Favoured Area scheme will continue, but comprehensively reformed: areas qualify for payment based on 8 biophysical criteria (the area in question must meet at least one of the criteria), and regions must undergo fine-tuning exercises to remove land which is LFA but which has overcome its handicap through investment.
  • The four axes of rural development, with the requirement to spend certain amounts on each, have been replaced by 6 priorities, with no restrictions on spending.
  1. Fostering knowledge transfer
  2. Enhancing agricultural competitiveness
  3. Promoting food chain organisation and risk management
  4. Preserving and enhancing ecosystems
  5. Resource efficiency and low carbon economy
  6. Development of rural areas.

There will be a new "performance framework", with targets to be met, and 5% of funds will be held back in a "performance reserve" for outstanding projects.