On 19 March 2013, agriculture ministers from the EU’s Member States agreed a negotiating position on reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP). They reached an agreement on a number of issues: (1) the general approach to the proposals for the direct payments regulation; (2) the regulation for single common market organisation (CMO); (3) the rural development regulation; (4) and the horizontal regulation within the framework of reform of the CAP.
Background - common agricultural policy (CAP) reform
On 12 October 2011 the Commission presented a set of legal proposals designed to make the CAP an effective policy for more competitive, vibrant and sustainable rural areas.
CAP reform is composed of four basic sections of EU legislation, all subject toordinary legislative procedure where the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are equal co-legislators.
Press Release of the Irish Presidency about the negotiating mandate
As the chair of the 18-19 March Council meeting, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine of Ireland, Simon Coveney, TD stressed in his statement on behalf of the rotating Irish EU Presidency of the Council: "We now have a very strong endorsement for a Council negotiating position. (...) It is the ambition of this presidency to bring CAP to a conclusion. Different countries have very different interests."
The full speech of Simon Coveney is available on the Council website.
The Press Release of the Irish EU Presidency is available here.
Council negotiating mandate from a public health perspective
The agreement is based on a Presidency proposal on the CAP reform package including amendments aimed at taking account of as many of the member states’ concerns as could reasonably be accommodated (7183/13, 7329/13, 7303/13, 7304/13; 7539/13 + ADD1).
1.) Direct Payments Regulation (proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy)
As regards greening, the agreement reflects the European Council conclusions of 7-8 February 2013 on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and
– Adjust and clarify the scope of ’equivalent practices’ (practices which yield an equivalent or higher benefit for the climate and the environment compared to the greening practices proposed by the Commission);
– Provide for a progressive application of the crop diversification requirements and clarify the exemptions to that requirement;
– Adjust the applicable minimum ratios of permanent grassland in relation to the total agricultural area;
– Allow for a graduated application of the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirement starting with 5% and adjust the scope of eligible EFA after an evaluation report from the Commission (2017) in order to increase it to 7% in 2018 if appropriate;
– Allow for 50% of the EFA requirements to be applied at regional level and/or collectively by groups of farmers, and clarify the weighting factors and exemptions.
Some exemptions to the crop diversification requirements, and further adjustments to the scope of eligible EFA (and the exemptions) have been better defined.
With regard to the European Council conclusions on MFF, provisions on capping and flexibility between pillars have been also introduced.
2.) Single Common Market Organisation (CMO) regulation (proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products)
As regards sugar, the agreement extends the quota regime until the 2016/2017 marketing year.
Provisions on vine plantings reflects the outcome of the High Level Group on vine planting rights.
3.) EAFRD - Rural development regulation (regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development)
Concerning agri-environment-climate payments, the "greening" payments have been excluded from the baseline (with a modification of article 29 of the Horizontal regulation to reflect this decision).
As regards areas with natural constraints, the agreement has included flexibility by suggesting that the phasing out of payments becomes degressive by 2016 at the latest. Member States may decide to start, and finish, the phasing out earlier. The first degressive payment must be no more than 80% of the average of the payment foreseen in the current programme.
4.) Horizontal and Financial - Cross compliance Regulation (a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the financing, management and monitoring of the CAP)
On the level of the administrative penalties in case of non respect of "greening" requirement, the agreement provides that 25% of the direct payment received in addition to the level of the "greening" payment should apply
The full text of the Council Press Release is available here.
Joint call from the public health society against tobacco subsidies - will the Council turn a blind eye?
The Council has now a window of opportunity to correct the ill-advised decision made by the European Parliament of approving the coupling of subsidies to tobacco production (already phased out at the end 2010). According to the European Public Health & Agriculture (EPHAC) and EPHA release, tobacco should not have a place in the 2014-2020 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
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