Monday

1st Jun 2020

Opinion

Progressive CAP alternative only hope for sustainability

  • The new 2020-27 Common Agricultural Policy, first enacted in 1962 and costing €55bn a year, could spell the death of rural communities in EU (Photo: maraker)

The European Commission has unveiled its post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Unsurprisingly, the proposals are a continuation of the disastrous approach that has seen a quarter of European farms disappear over the past decade. This is equivalent to one farm every three minutes.

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Commissioner Phil Hogan, in charge of agriculture and rural development, said that his proposals are to "modernise and simplify" the CAP.

We see them as spelling the death of rural communities, the acceleration of the rural exodus, the consolidation of big agribusinesses, jeopardising public health standards and turning binding climate change targets into optional goals for member states.

This is why GUE/NGL, the Left group in the European Parliament, is unveiling a manifesto for a fair and democratic CAP to provide concrete policy solutions to the challenges in the sector.

It is urgent that the next CAP promotes truly sustainable agriculture and forestry by strengthening small farmers and rural communities, promoting environmental and animal-friendly practices, enabling food sovereignty and defending public health against the reckless practices of agribusinesses.

CAP dates from 1962

The CAP is one of the oldest EU policies, launched in 1962, with a current budget of around €55bn every year.

Rather than serving European agriculture, and ultimately European citizens, the CAP has been there to subsidise the unfettered growth of agribusinesses like Monsanto.

About 80 percent of the total CAP budget has gone to 20 percent of recipients.

From the Europe-wide food scandals of the past years to the growing evidence of health and environmental risks from chemicals commonly used in farming like glyphosate, this so-called common EU policy has come with a high cost for small- and medium-sized farms, consumers and the environment.

The CAP-promoted intensive livestock production model is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and is the cause of immense animal suffering.

Agrochemicals and GMOs in agriculture pollute water and soil, and leave residues in food.

This misguided CAP has had consequences beyond Europe's borders.

Bad for Africa

Aggressive trade practices like cheap subsidised exports combined with massive imports of cereals for feed (especially GM crops) have had a devastating impact on developing countries' food markets and play a decisive role in deforestation and world hunger.

As expected, the Commission's post-2020 CAP proposals drew almost immediate opposition from EU farmers and environmental groups.

It was clear from the outset that proposals such as the reduction of direct payments, a lifeline for struggling small- and medium- scale farms, and flexible climate change targets for member states, have the fingerprints of big business who have unscrupulously lobbied Commissioner Hogan's cabinet.

In our manifesto, we present concrete proposals as an alternative to this destructive path.

We call for decent income for small- and medium-sized farms, higher social protection for farmers and agricultural workers and the recognition of the rights of women in family farms.

We advocate for a mechanism that guarantees fair prices for production, thereby avoiding large-scale distribution abuses and protecting consumers.

We want the doubling of payments to young farmers and a fairer distribution of the overall payments, increasing the modulation and imposing caps. Insurance cover for climate and health risk must be public, resisting attempts at privatisation under the CAP.

European agriculture and consumers are under threat from the wave of free trade agreements the EU bureaucracy is negotiating and have signed, like CETA, JEFTA and TTIP.

They signify one of the biggest threats to small farming and the environment. We call for a new model of cooperation based on complementarity and mutual development instead.

The new CAP should introduce forceful measures against unfair practices in trade. It should also include previously abolished recovering mechanisms such as guarantees, public storage, EU preferences and mechanisms for regulating production and markets.

We want an end to all forms of seed patenting, to protect farmers against multinationals and to protect local varieties.

The post-2020 CAP must integrate binding targets on climate change in line with the EU's commitment under the Paris Agreement.

We want a CAP that rewards farmers for the public good they can delivery such as climate action and wildlife conservation.

There is an urgent need to shift to ecological horticulture and less, but sustainable, animal farming, while withdrawing support for intensive animal production.

There is a shameful gender and age gap in European farming that the CAP must tackle. The majority of women who work in family farmers are not recognised as farmers and they have no recognised rights.

Over half of farmers in the EU are over 55 years old and only 6 percent under 35. We call for positive measures to ensure parity in decision-making and shared ownership and legally guaranteed equal pay in family farms for women and men.

The post-2020 must provide the conditions for young farmers to grow at the start of their careers. Rural areas must become attractive, well connected and have access to quality and free public services.

In the wake of the food scandals that revealed widespread animal abuse, the EU must become serious about animal welfare.

We want an overhaul of legislation to make standards and controls stricter such as mandatory use of surveillance cameras in critical parts of slaughterhouses and in full respect of workers' rights. We demand for stricter regulation on live animal transport and stricter limits on veterinary antibiotics use.

Over half of EU's land area is forest. Forestry activities do not need to be disastrous for the environment. We need enhanced CAP financing for sustainable management of natural resources and for Natura 2000 network activities.

We must put a halt to forest fragmentation and deforestation, to recover the forested agrarian lands and support measures to prevent forest fires, combating forest monocultures and rejection of market instruments for forest management.

The commission's post-2020 CAP proposals pose us - policy-makers and EU citizens - a collective challenge and opportunity for change.

The time is now to stand for a progressive, democratic and fair CAP for sustainable agriculture and forestry.

Stefan Eck (Germany) and Lidia Senra (Galicia) are independent MEPs part of the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Analysis

Hogan's carrot: reform to soften CAP cuts

The European Commission is dangling the prospect to farmers of being able to dodge financial cuts in the upcoming EU budget – but only if national governments agree to a mandatory redistribution of subsidies.

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Drought is causing severe problems for farmers in the Nordic region and the Baltic countries. This is the third year in a row that the region has experienced extreme weather conditions, pushing farmers' financial situation to a breaking point.

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