CAP reforms: what’s the state of the art in the political process?
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the oldest policies which are done on an integrated European level – and with 40% of the European budget, it is also one of the policies with the highest financial, economic and social impacts.
In October 2011, the European Commission presented its draft for a reform of the CAP. After intensive debates, the European Parliament’s commission for agricultural affairs finally adopted its positions about the different parts of the reformpackage on 23 and 24 January 2013. Those positions will be decisive for the European Parliament’s vote in the plenary session scheduled for 11 to 14 march 2013.
The 27 member states’ ministers of agriculture are expected to decide on their final position on the Council on 18 and 19 march 2013. Further to this, the negotiation between the two co-legislators (Parliament and Council) will begin.
However, a compromise still needs to be found on the overall European budget for the next 7 years. The next Brussels meeting of European heads of states and governments for this aim is planned for 7 to 8 February. If during those EU budget talks, a reduction of the CAP’s budget was decided (some sources talk about 370 billion € instead of 400 billion €), this would have an impact on the CAP reform itself: especially the share of spending dedicated to environmental measures could receive cuts if the overall envelop was to shrink.
Let’s talk about content!
Initially, the European Commission proposed a „greening“ of the PAC, meaning that for 30% of the direct payments, three additional requirements apply: preserving existing grasslands, dedicating at least 7% of the farm’s land to ecologic reserve zones, and maintaining a diversified mix of cultures.
In the January 2013 position of the European Parliament’s agricultural commission, the list of farms automatically exempted from those three requirements has been extended. Moreover, more flexibility was introduced in terms of agricultural diversity, and the condition of ecologic reserve zones was given a more progressive approach.
Furthermore, the European Parliament increased the pressure on inequalities of EU-fundings among member states: in the future, no EU farmer should receive less than 65% of the European average subsidies, which is a higher rate than the Commission initially proposed.
What about horticulture?
Horticulture is an agricultural branch which is frequently neglected. And yet, in a country like Germany, the annual turnover of the core of this branch is 25 billion €, with more than 400,000 employees and more than 200,000 hectare (about 50% vegetables, 25% fruits), and representing more than 35% of the entire agriculture’s plant production. If looking not only at the traditional core horticulture businesses (vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees, spices), but also on horticulture in a larger sense: parks, sport grounds, graveyards and any kind of public or private space with a green design.
However, horticulture associations seem to frequently feel like “small players” compared to “big businesses” like cereals and animals. For example, this is the case when it comes to pest control: vegetables are particularly concerned by remainders, even though they consume less important quantities than the “big players”, according to Jürgen Mertz, president of the German Horticulture Association (ZVG). Mister Mertz regrets that due to thosesmaller quantities of consumption, the pest control industry has got fewerincentives for creating alternatives. Another example is that gardeners of sports complexes are one of the most prominent examples of agriculture-related players that cannot qualify as “active farmers” in the European Commission’s list for eligible CAP subsidy receivers. The only possibility for those gardeners to receive subsidies would be a well-designed exemption granted by their EU member state… or they would have to prove that agriculture represents a substantial part of their revenue. The simple fact of shaping and maintaining the landscape – which would have been the only possible justification for granting them general eligibility – is not considered sufficient.