EU agricultural policy reform: a real change of system?
The EU member states reached an agreement on Wednesday on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. In future, 20 percent of each EU country's direct payments to farmers must be reserved for organic regulations. The current subusidies system is mainly based on the area cultivated and has been blamed for the decline of small farms and biodiversity. Observers are sceptical about whether this compromise will bring true change.
More realistic and sustainable
The agreement is a real step forward for the EU, business paper Les Echos comments approvingly:
“This agreement of the 27 in consultation with the Council of Ministers, the EU Parliament and the EU Commission enables a new edition of the Common Agricultural Policy starting 2023. In a Union weakened by political divisions and the Brexit - which will reduce the CAP by around 40 billion euros per year - this joint venture is no small political success. Especially since it is finally putting forward the realistic perspective of a more sustainable and viable, if not very profitable, EU agricultural policy. Although the MEPs are more ambitious, they are wisely refraining from setting goals that are unattainable due to insufficient human or financial resources.”
The main beneficiaries are still the industrial farms
The EU agriculture ministers have missed a good chance to make agricultural policy more socially responsible and environmentally friendly, tagesschau.de complains:
“Their decisions sound as if they've never heard of species decline, soil erosion or global warming. ... Most of the agricultural subsidies will continue to strengthen industrial agriculture in the next seven years, with all the well-known negative repercussions for the environment. The bigger the area to be farmed, the more generous the payments from Brussels. And that's how things will remain. Small and medium-sized farms will be left behind - regardless of whether they operate organically or conventionally. ... Those who produce too cheaply - and too much - are rewarded.”
Reform perpetuates catastrophic policy
The signature of the agricultural lobby is all too clear on the proposed agreement, write Green MEP Philippe Lamberts and nutrition expert Olivier De Schutter in Le Vif/L'Express:
“Wherever the food industry lobby acts, it fights for the sole goal of maintaining the status quo. The reason is simple: Since agricultural subsidies are linked to the area that is farmed, the main beneficiaries are not small producers but industrial farmers and food industry giants. ... The reform proposal that the MEPs are putting to the vote is an unworthy response to the social - and climatic - emergency. Not only does it not offer a solution to the unjust distribution of agricultural subsidies, it also fails miserably in facilitating the transition to sustainable and resilient food systems.”
The decisive work begins now
Whether the subsidies system that has been linked to a decline in the number of farmers and the extinction of species will really comes to an end is in the hands of the individual member states now, the Kleine Zeitung says:
“The real work only begins now that each EU country must define for itself which farmer receives how much money and for what. Finding a clever ecological incentive system that is also viable will be the main task. ... If a farmer implements organic or animal welfare measures, but the loss of income is higher than the actual subsidy, the money will left unused in the EU coffers. The agricultural giants will continue as before. Europe already missed a big opportunity at the budget summit in July. If there is no mandatory upper limit for funding, in the David vs. Goliath country-by-country showdown, many will continue to get a little and just a handful will get a lot.”