In the article “Clash of visions over agricultural reform” (10-16 March), you highlighted the deep divisions within the Agriculture Council. Unfortunately, your predictions came true, as the Agriculture Council on 17 March failed to find any agreement on the European Commission’s communication “The CAP towards 2020”.
Instead of leading European agriculture and rural areas into the future by tackling the key challenges head-on, member states came out with a half-hearted response that stressed simplification rather than delivery.
Fundamental change to the CAP is urgently needed, in the face of the daunting challenges of degraded ecosystems, vanishing biodiversity, water crisis and looming climate change. At the same time, mounting budgetary pressures are shining a light on all public spending, making the current levels of ineffectiveness and inefficiency unacceptable.
The CAP is at a crossroads and ministers must choose: the CAP must either be reborn as a policy that rewards farming that delivers crucial public goods, or it will sink into expensive irrelevance.
In its conclusions at the Agriculture Council, the presidency of the Council of Ministers endorsed a further ‘greening’ of the CAP but it skirted around the issue of how to achieve this. Most member states seem too afraid of upsetting domestic vested interests to heed a call made two weeks ago in a joint letter from three European commissioners. In that letter, Dacian Ciolos(agriculture and rural development), Connie Hedegaard (climate action) and Janez Potočnik (environment) highlighted the need to ‘green’ the CAP via both a meaningful green component in Pillar 1 (subsidies and market support) and ambitious, well-targeted agri-environmental measures in Pillar 2 (rural development).
Environmental, public health and farming NGOs will offer strong support for a CAP that is reformed properly, provided it targets support on farming that delivers public goods such as biodiversity, water and climate resilience, but they cannot condone a ‘business as usual’ approach that wastes money or subsidises environmental harm. EU governments need to show courage and leadership, for the sake of farmers, the broader public and the environment.
European Environmental Bureau
Pesticide Action Network
Friends of the Earth Europe
Butterfly Conservation Europe
European Forum on Nature
Conservation and Pastoralism
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