Commission Clarifies Support for Farmers Facing Extreme Weather Events

Simona Mazzeo

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – The EU Commission clarified force majeure for the agricultural sector, aiding farmers facing severe, unforeseeable weather events. This aims to ensure uniform CAP payment application and reduce administrative burdens for affected farmers.

The European Commission assumed a Communication clarifying the use of force majeure and exceptional circumstances for the EU agricultural sector on the subject of unforeseeable and severe weather events. 

By clarifying the legal understanding of this concept, the Commission aims to deliver certainty for affected farmers concerning their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, while also assuring a uniform application across the Union by national administrations. This Communication constitutes part of the package to reduce the administrative burden for EU farmers.

Can Force Majeure Simplify CAP Payments for Farmers?

EU Commission states that the concept of force majeure permits farmers who have been unable to meet all their CAP requirements due to exceptional and unforeseeable circumstances outside their control (such as extreme droughts or floods) not to lose CAP support. The application of this idea is decided by Member States based on appropriate evidence and in light of Union agricultural law.

Because it includes an exception to the rigorous respect of obligations related to CAP payments (such as conditionalities or measures in eco-schemes), this finding is normally applied in a restrictive manner, typically on a case-by-case or farm-by-farm basis. 

Can the EU’s New Policy Reduce Farmers’ Administrative Burden?

The following Communication explains that force majeure can apply to all farmers functioning in a delimited area that is impacted by severe and unforeseeable natural disasters or meteorological events. This suggests that farmers located in the affected area will not need to fill in individual requests or deliver evidence for the completion of the conditions of force majeure. These enlarged dimensions of application will reduce the administrative responsibility for farmers and national authorities, thus facilitating a swift response by Member States.

Conditions are specified in the Communication to allow the idea that all farmers located in an area are surrounded by force majeure. Member States will have to establish the occurrence of a severe natural disaster or an extreme meteorological event and delimit the geographical area that has been gravely impacted by the event, and whose results could not be prevented with all due care. 

For this delimitation, Member States can depend, for instance, on satellite data of the site concerned, without the need for detailed satellite data at the level of the individual holdings. For certain types of circumstances, national administrations will also assess additional factors, such as the slope gradient, soil type, or type of crops grown, to determine the population affected without the need for individual verification. This could be the case, for example, for frost which may not concern all crops in the same manner, or persistent rainfall, which may have different impacts on areas with a slope, or soils with different water retention capacities.

The European Commission has attended closely to the concerns voiced by farmers and Member States earlier this year and performed swiftly to deliver concrete actions to address the issues raised.

On 22 February 2024, the Commission submitted its first actions for simplification to relieve the administrative burden for EU farmers in a lasting way. On 15 March, it introduced its proposal for a targeted review of the Common Agricultural Policy, which entered into force on 25 May after successfully being endorsed by the Council and the European Parliament.

Member States play a critical role in keeping the administrative burden for farmers restricted and proportionate. Any thriving simplification exercise must be carried out in close collaboration with the national administrations and farmers themselves.

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Simona Mazzeo is a journalist at Brussels Morning News. She is covering European Parliament, European Council, European Commission & Italy News. She is a law graduate and lawyer residing in Agropoli, has carved out a multifaceted career dedicated to justice and social advocacy. She actively serves as a delegated councilor for the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Bar Association of Vallo della Lucania, championing fair and equal representation within the legal system. Recognized for her expertise and empathy, Simona is qualified for registration in the list of Special Curators of minors in civil and criminal matters at the Court of Vallo della Lucania, ensuring the rights and interests of vulnerable children are protected throughout legal proceedings. Beyond her legal practice, Simona demonstrates a strong commitment to social causes. She is a founding member of the Free Lawyer Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing legal assistance to those who cannot afford it. Additionally, she leverages her knowledge and passion for social justice as a non-professional journalist, contributing insightful and informative pieces on relevant legal and societal issues. Through her diverse endeavors, Simona Mazzeo exemplifies dedication to legal excellence, social responsibility, and a fervent belief in equal access to justice for all.