Agriculture and Rural Development committee discussions on CAP reforms:

The committee members vote on CAP reform (picture EPA, January ’13):

Speaking after the votes on 24th January, committee chair Paulo De Castro said “the Agriculture Committee has said today how the new CAP should look. It should be more efficient, greener and able to respond to the enormous challenges ahead of us. Such ambitious goals entail higher costs. So any further cuts to the CAP budget are simply unacceptable”.

See CAP reform section for outcome of vote:

“Agriculture committee adopts plans for modern and flexible policy”:

Agenda, COMAGRI meeting 23rd & 24th January ’13:

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan said that as “David Cameron made his big speech promising a “better deal” from Europe… this committee … was voting to worsen the deal we’ve already got”.

He said the agriculture committee “voted… to go backwards in time” – for instance in expanding the scope for “recoupling”, and in blocking the transparency provisions which would have published the names of all the beneficiaries and the amounts they received.

The committee also voted for double funding – something which Owen Paterson described as “immoral and illegal” – paying farmers twice for doing the same thing. This is because the committee decided that any farmer could receive the “green” Pillar 1 money automatically if they already collected any payment, however small, for environmental measures under Pillar 2.

Mr Paterson attacked the votes as “disappointing, retrograde, backward-looking” and in some respects “ludicrous”. He said he was “genuinely disappointed,” at the outcome.

Speaking after the Farm Council meeting, Owen Paterson called for the committee to reverse the direction taken on the Single CMO Regulation. “We have to push MEPs to take the CAP reform forward … we must not unravel EU competition law and return to costly market management tools”, he said.

At his post-Council press conference, Commissioner Ciolos made clear that he did not support any ‘double funding’, and added that this is “not going in a right direction … does not ensure the proper use of CAP funds”. The concept of equivalency aims to ensure “a clear separation between the greening measures in the 1st Pillar as a baseline and the agri-environment schemes that seek to go further under the 2nd Pillar”.

Andrew Gilligan:

Environmental campaigners have criticised the vote, alleging that the debate was dominated by agricultural interests.

The EEB (European Environment Bureau) says that the CAP continues to suffer from a fundamental lack of legitimacy as it continues what they call a ‘money for free’ approach. They criticise the COMAGRI decision to effectively pay farmers twice for the same work.

Birdlife International is concerned that MEPs have deleted or watered down 10 out of 21 cross-compliance rules.

Friends of the Earth Europe saw the vote in the agriculture committee as weakening the proposed greening of direct payments and leading to monoculture.

Attila Jambor says ‘it seems the only group welcoming the vote is COPA-COGECA’, representing farmers and their co-ops, who see the measures as a step in the right direction. In particular, the farm lobby welcomes MEPs vote in favour of regulating the EU wine production potential and the increased flexibility concerning measures to further green the CAP. However, they have serious concerns regarding budget cuts, any transfers from the first pillar to the second and the flexibility of member states to spend money on different measures.

It seems there may be a number of groups lobbying the MEPs not on the Agricultural Committee to vote against ‘the melt-down of the CAP’ in the Parliament’s plenary vote, scheduled for March 12th in Strasbourg.

Source: Attila Jambor on CAP reform (Attila Jambor is Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary).