Commission’s timid farm policy ‘reform’ ignores environmental crisis on Europe’s farmland
The European Commission has today published its vision for the EU’s food and farming system for the years to come.
The EEB strongly criticises the new proposal which sets the stage for a race to the bottom on environmental farm standards – unless enough Member States have the political courage to commit to agricultural practices that are truly sustainable, encouraging a race to the top.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.
Under the proposal, incomprehensibly EU countries won’t receive dissuasive sanctions for not meeting the policy’s environmental and climate objectives. This means EU governments would have no incentive to make their farm payments linked to environmental protection as doing so would put farmers in their country at a negative competitive advantage.
Today’s proposal is the opposite of the results-based approach Farm Commissioner Hogan has been promising.
Bérénice Dupeux, EEB Policy Officer for Agriculture, said:
“Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan is ignoring people’s concerns about the negative impact our food and farming system is having on nature, the climate, and people. Hogan says he wants a results-based policy but his proposal remains an empty shell, with payments neither linked to environmentally-friendly farm methods or actual environmental improvements. With so much European taxpayers’ money being spent on farm payments, we need real accountability to ensure the cash is supporting farmers to produce safe and healthy food in a way that works in harmony with the environment and not against it.”
> The proposal calls for tracking climate expenditure. However, this is meaningless given that Member States can count any payments that respect minimum sustainability standards towards reaching the climate objective. A new comprehensive study published today shows that even the most sustainable beef and dairy producers have a more damaging impact on our environment than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal producers. This is yet more evidence that payments should be used to help farmers transition towards new production systems. Instead the Commission remains steadfast on keeping in place environmentally harmful subsidies such as coupled payments.
> While the new CAP will give young farmers an extra payment to help them access land in reality this will do little to support them given that the overall direct payments system increases land value making it harder to access land and locks farmers into debt. Even the study used by the Commissioner to justify his approach of maintaining direct payments shows the perverse effect the direct payments system has on access to land for young farmers.
 The proposals kick-start a political to-and-fro between the different EU institutions and EU governments before a final decision is made on what the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will look like. These new laws will come into effect across the bloc in 2020.
 The proposals do include a compulsory ‘eco-scheme’ that would give farmers money for going the extra mile for the environment. However, this ‘echo-scheme’ remains voluntary at farm level, meaning that Members States could spend only a tiny proportion of their budget and be compliant. This clearly reflects the level of ambition for the environment.
 There is mounting evidence that the current direct payments system has been a failure for the environment, society and the economy.