Court Of Auditors Underline CAP Concerns

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's powerful Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has welcomed an official Opinion by the European Court of Auditors on the European Commission's CAP reform proposals.

Alyn has hailed the Opinion as a useful and constructive addition to the debate and as important supporting evidence to the growing concerns over aspects of the new legislation - while emphasising the need to avoid a knee-jerk negative reaction, as the Parliament's Agriculture Committee will be on top of this during the legislative process.  

The Opinion is quite critical of the Commission's proposals. Overall, CAP reform will not create an outcome-based policy with key and measurable targets; payments will continue to be badly targeted and not contribute to quantifiable public benefit; and the CAP will still be too administratively complex, with an excessive administrative burden on paying agencies and farmers leading to a possible 15% increase in costs. The Opinion is also sceptical of the active farmer rule based on income, which will be very difficult to check, and picks up on a number of points which Alyn has made, such as: the perils of a 2011 base year in terms of excluding new entrants from the entitlement system; the difficulties in not attaching traded entitlements to land, thus encouraging speculation and "naked acres"; and the failure to simplify cross compliance.

Alyn said:

"I'm pleased that the Court of Auditors has highlighted some of the issues which we will have to work on in the coming months.

"We need a Common Agricultural Policy which encourages farming, the production of food, and associated public goods such as land management, and sadly the current CAP often hinders these goals through administrative complexity, unfair access rules which deprive many active farmers of entitlement, and other perverse incentives and outcomes, such as the free tradability of entitlements. The new legislative proposals are welcome, such as the conversion to an area based approach and the reduction in the number of SMRs and GAEC standards, but in some areas they still have not hit the mark.  

"But that's what the legislative process is for - the Commission issues proposals, not decrees, and now the process of democratic scrutiny kicks in. I'm sure that the suggestions in this Opinion will help us with our work. This will include fixing the problem of the 2011 base year so that new entrants will have equal access to entitlements; ensuring local flexibility in creating a active farmer rule which works and excludes slipper farmers; and streamlining the administrative process and cross compliance to ensure genuine environmental protection while cutting down on unnecessary paperwork and standards which don't ensure real outcomes."