While Commissioner Phil Hogan’s new results-based plan for the future of EU farm policy – presented today in Brussels – sounds attractive, it remains to be seen how this will be possible if harmful direct payments to farmers are not gradually phased out and replaced by genuine alternatives better focused on ecosystems enhancement and an actual transition to sustainable farming.
New research published last week  shows that the CAP direct payments system is failing the environment, society and the economy.
Hogan’s plan also does not adequately acknowledge that many species and habitats are in decline as a result of unsustainable agriculture practices that contribute to water and air pollution, to soil loss and climate change, and undermine farmers’ long-term ability to produce the food we need.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is wary of the text’s inconsistencies and contradictions and is worried that this plan is nothing more than window dressing that will be used to secure another large share of the EU budget for the farm sector and give more flexibility and freedom to Member States with no questions asked.
The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.
EEB Policy Manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy, Faustine Bas-Defossez, said:
“We need to move away from a system where farmers are paid based on the size of their farm and not for what public goods they actually deliver to citizens. If Hogan is serious about a truly results-oriented scheme tied to real objectives he should scrap perverse payments that fund environmentally-harmful activities and replace them with actual support earmarked for ecosystem services and a fund that helps farmers shift to sustainable farming methods.”
The Commission’s proposal also wants to give EU countries more flexibility to interpret the farm green rules as they see fit.
“Negotiations on the next EU budget will pick up speed into 2018 and the Commission cannot justify spending a huge amount of EU taxpayers’ money on a new farm policy unless there is a robust accountability mechanism for farm payments to ensure Hogan’s results-based vision is converted into reality. Time and time again we’ve seen that when EU governments are given more flexibility they go for the lowest common denominator. If freedom and flexibility does not come hand in hand with accountability then history will repeat itself and the flexibility afforded will be nothing more than a smokescreen to systematically water down environmental ambition. We need a future policy where the Commission does not shy away from applying real financial penalties on countries that don’t follow the rules.”
For more information:
Faustine Bas-Defossez, EEB Policy Manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy