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5th Jul 2020

Green Deal

Row looming over 8.8 percent cut in CAP budget

  • 'The reduction of some 8.8 percent in direct support in real terms in a period where so much pressure and expectation is put on farmers is simply unacceptable,' said the president of the agricultural organisation Copa (Photo: Jan Fidler)

Members from the European Parliament's committee on agriculture welcomed on Tuesday (2 June) the updated proposal of the European Commission for the EU's long-term budget - but urged enough funding to help farmers recover from the coronavirus crisis and increase the sector's resilience.

The EU Commission's proposal announced last week a €348.3bn Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) budget - with extra €15bn funding for rural development to support agro-ecology and strengthen nature protection.

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This last proposal represents a nearly nine-percent cut compared to the exiting CAP funding for 2014-2020, but a slightly increased amount in comparison to the proposal of the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, being discussed last February.

However, these figures are presented in the commission's proposal in 'constant 2018 prices' represented by their value in the year 2018 - what has triggered a complex discussion in the EU bubble.

The row matters because CAP still consumes over one-third of the EU budget.

Earlier this year, the parliament warned that the financing of the CAP should remain unchanged in the EU-27 context as cutting the money on agriculture policy leaves citizens "undefended".

"We can't go backwards," socialist MEP Paolo De Castro said on Tuesday (2 June), referring to the potential cuts for the CAP expenditure beyond 2020.

"The Covid-19 spread has had a dramatic impact on farmers and food producers. They need our support," he tweeted.

Following the recently announced Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies, European farmers and agri-cooperatives said that possible cuts in the CAP budget are 'unacceptable' as more requirements are imposed on farmers.

"The reduction of some 8.8 percent in direct support in real terms in a period where so much pressure and expectation is put on farmers is simply unacceptable," said the president of the agricultural organization Copa, Joachim Rukwied.

However, according to EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn, the updated budget for agriculture policy will make farms "green, digital and more resilient".

"We must use the firepower of the next MFF [EU's long-term budget] and the next generation recovery instrument to make sure that green becomes a viable business model for all our farmers," said Hahn, arguing that as "it is very difficult to become green when the figures on the bottom line are red".

Commissioner Hahn also called on MEPs to also conclude their work on the post-2020 reform of the CAP.

Which price?

Meanwhile, agriculturally sensitive countries like France and Spain have welcomed the commission proposal as a step in the right direction.

The total funding for the CAP would constitute €391.4bn in 'current' or 'nominal' prices (according to 2020 prices) - which means that that the sector will receive two percent more funds each year than it received in 2020, according to the commissioner of agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski.

For Wojciechowski, this increment will enable the green and digital transition of the agricultural sector - ensuring funding for organic farming, less intensive livestock and more sustainable agriculture practices.

"More money it is more possibilities to support farmers and more opportunities to take action," he said.

For France, the proposal is a "success" for the actions carried out by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to maintain the CAP as a priority European policy.

"Europe, united, has adopted a recovery plan on the scale of the crisis that we face," the French ministry for agriculture and food said in a statement.

The commission's proposal provides a "good basis" for the upcoming negotiations, according to the Spanish minister for agriculture, Luis Planas, who is positive about reaching an agreement in the council and parliament soon.

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