Farm ministers in tangle over direct payments as EU financial watchdog issues ‘business as usual’ warning on future of farm policy

A new report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has branded the changes suggested in the Commission’s plans for an overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as likely to “be similar to those supported in the past”.

The report was published on the same day as EU farm ministers meeting in Brussels failed to reach agreement on how to reform the EU’s farm direct payment scheme.

The EEB calls on ministers to take on board the ECA’s recommendations for future farm spending to be accountable and based on relevant, ambitious and verifiable objectives, and based on performance rather than compliance. It also warns that if the Commission is serious about making the CAP greener then so-called voluntary coupled support (VCS) should be abolished as these payments have proved to be environmentally-harmful.

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.

Industrial farming is the main driver of habitat destruction and nature loss in Europe – with populations of common farmland birds decreasing by 30% and grassland butterflies falling by almost 50% since 1990.

Yet in a damning indictment of the policy’s environmental impact, the ECA report states that the last attempt to ‘green’ EU farm policy lacked specific targets for how the ‘greening’ measure would contribute to protecting the environment and climate. A previous ECA report from December 2017 also showed that the so-called ‘greening’ measure did not lead to any significant increase in environmentally-sound farming practices – despite European governments spending a huge chunk of the EU’s annual budget on the scheme.

Bérénice Dupeux, EEB Policy Officer for Agriculture, said:

“Pouring such huge amounts of public money into farm policy can only be justified if money is spent on subsidising farm methods that work in harmony with the environment – not against it. Accountability around how public money is spent is key to ensure that EU countries’ farm budgets are actually working in the interests of the environment, farmers – and society as a whole. Farm ministers should reject any reform of farm policy that leaves us with the same old ‘business as usual’.”

Last week the European Court of Auditors also issued a damning evaluation of the ‘inherent limitations’ of direct payments which stated that the CAP direct payments system is not targeted to farmers in need or the provision of public goods. This backs up another recent evaluation from researchers who found that direct payments are failing the environment, society and the economy.


Farm ministers in tangle over direct payments as EU financial watchdog issues ‘business as usual’ warning on future of farm policy
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