Brussels (Brussels Morning) This week, the European Parliament voted in favour of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that will be applicable from 2023 to 2027, and is set to continue promoting the social and environmental calamity we have been witnessing with the previous versions of this funding policy. At just under 387 billion euro, CAP accounts for almost one third of the European Union’s budget, and MEPs from the Greens/EFA group are not the only ones criticising it.
Earlier this year, the European Court of Auditors concluded that CAP subsidies continue to fuel the climate crisis, despite more than a quarter of the total CAP budget (100 billion euro) being allocated to supposedly mitigate and adapt to climate change during the 2014-2020 period: “most mitigation measures supported by the CAP have a low potential to mitigate climate change. The CAP rarely finances measures with high climate mitigation potential”.
With this CAP deal, three quarters of the payments are still area-payments and are subject to few conditions, giving EU member states almost free rein with implementation. Also, there will be no cap on direct payments; and the farms with the largest areas will continue to receive the highest payments, benefiting the big agribusinesses and oligarchs, not the definition of farmer that would normally come to mind (you might want to read New York Times’ article on this).
A just deal for small and medium farmers
What we wanted for this CAP was a just deal for small and medium farmers to ensure fair prices and compensations. In addition, we sought a deal that was climate-proof and in line with our CO2 reduction objectives, and that also protected biodiversity and promoted higher animal welfare. Our citizens, our planet, needed a deal that duely rewarded farmers dedicated to organic production and that cut funding for intensive animal farming, which has obvious negative consequences for our health, the animals’ wellbeing and the environment. Unfortunately, this is not what we now have.
During negotiations, and especially in the days around the final votes, it was very interesting to observe the criticism from other political groups and COPA-COGECA. They were accusing those that promoted the rejection of the CAP — not just the Greens/EFA, but also scientists, NGOs, real farmers and activists — of wanting to condemn farmers and eradicate rural areas. However, this is precisely what the version of the CAP from the Greens/EFA did not support. It is an argument based on different definitions of farming. While the other groups are making policy guided by national interests (fuelled by the industrial-scale agribusinesses and oligarchs), our view of the CAP seeks to protect small-scale farmers and reverse the decline of sustainable family farms.
Moreover, to better understand how perverse the previous CAPs have been, it is important to note that only 20% of the policy’s beneficiaries (the large agribusinesses/oligarchs) accumulate 80% of all payments, leaving the small and medium farmers with only 20% of the subsidies.
In cooperation with various NGOs and activist movements such as Fridays For Future, the Greens/ALE promoted a campaign over several months to mobilise citizens to speak out against the new CAP, and to ask their own politicians to reject the new agreement. This campaign included an online petition that gathered nearly 15,000 signatures and resulted in over 93,000 e-mails sent to MEPs, asking them to vote against this CAP. The actions carried out were not, however, enough to motivate MEPs to reject the CAP.
During a special interparliamentary hearing on 18 November, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowksi indicated that support for small and medium-sized farmers is a red line for the approval of the strategic plans, and he promised to reject any plans that restrict access to funding for these farmers. However, it needs to be reasserted that any such rejection should not be based solely on this conditionality, but should also apply to any contradiction between member-states’ agricultural funding intentions and the Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy.
We need policy coherency and therefore we need the Commission to properly fulfil its role of overseeing member-states’ National Strategic Plans (NSPs) by rejecting any proposal that goes against what was pledged. This could be our last hope.