Member of the European Commission, responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development
The CAP serving European agriculture’s competitiveness, diversity and sustainability
Meeting of the expanded advisory group on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy/Brussels
14 October 2013
As Jerzy pointed out, this is the 3 rd meeting of the expanded advisory group on the reform of the CAP. I thank you all for your participation and commitment since the start of the process. You can see around you new posters. These are tools for presenting the CAP within the framework of an information campaign on the new CAP which we are launching today. I think that it is important to explain what the new CAP is, and to ensure that European citizens continue to regard this policy as their own. Through the public debate in 2010 we consolidated the link between the CAP and society - that was a major effort which must be continued over the coming years.
Of course the new CAP, like any agreement on a major policy, is the result of a compromise. Some people would have liked to go further on certain points, while other people would have liked to go further on other points. I think it is important that we have given Agricultural Policy a clear new direction, and that we have reached agreement with the European Parliament and with the support of all the Member States, in a Europe where they number 28.
Making optimum use of the diversity of the EU through a common policy is one of the reform’s main priorities.
Direct payments will be allocated more effectively among Member States, regions and farmers. Historical references will disappear. They gave a ‘premium’ to those farmers who were the most productive over a decade ago, without taking account of reality today.
The Member States have a set of tools with which to adjust the level of direct payments to reality in their territories - and important choices are currently being made. To frame those choices, a number of mandatory criteria have been laid down at European level: a minimal convergence objective; targeting active farmers; an ambitious policy of support for young farmers.
Moreover, additional tools are available for modulating direct payments at local level, particularly for less-favoured areas or fragile forms of production (coupling), thereby strengthening the competitiveness of all our farms. Or for better targeting of certain categories of farm which play a key role in the local agricultural fabric. I am referring in particular to the simplified plan for small farms, the ‘first hectares’ redistribution option, the reduction of aid above a certain level and with the possibility of capping payments.
I would add that, from now on, Member States have the option of using their rural development programmes to set up sectoral sub-programmes aimed at sectors which have to face specific challenges.
The rural development programmes will also make it possible to do more with regard to innovation. The measures for investing in and restructuring sectors or regions are extremely important instruments which we have strengthened. We must be aware that the choices made now on these issues in particular will determine the future of the agricultural and agri-food sectors and their competitiveness. Strategic choices must be made now for the coming decade. The European Union is a first-rate agricultural and agri-food power. Let us all use the means to develop it sustainably by relying on these strengths and its diversity.
The wish to make optimum use of that diversity is one of the reasons why we have enhanced the CAP with tools for developing local forms of production and products bearing quality marks, as well as local development initiatives through the reinforced LEADER approach.
All these tools should enable sectors encountering difficulties to become competitive again so that they can all continue to grow.
Strengthening the position of farmers within the food production chain
The market orientation of the past twenty years in European agriculture will be accompanied by new tools enabling farmers to prosper on the market, instead of just being reduced to enduring its price volatility in particular. This is a major issue with regard to competitiveness over the coming years.
The new tools are not centralised or bureaucratic. In a Europe of 28 Member States and an open world, we are not going to direct the markets from Brussels as was possible in the past. The professional and inter-branch organisations will be encouraged to play a key role, with new rights. This is an opportunity to be seized.
Organisations in the dairy, beef and veal, cereal and olive-oil sectors will be able to increase efficiency by negotiating sales agreements on behalf of their members. At European level we will be equipped with tools enabling us to react more quickly in response to crises - this is essential in order to make the best use of fundamentally limited budgetary resources and to be really effective.
A crisis reserve has been set up, accompanied by a general emergency clause. This clause means that we will no longer have to go chasing after a suitable legal basis when a crisis breaks out; instead, we will be ready to act when the time comes. Moreover, if there is a crisis or real risk of a crisis, the Commission will be able to authorise producers to manage the volumes placed on the market. But it will of course be necessary to deepen this approach further and to continue to consider new tools which the Commission will activate in a severe crisis, most specifically for certain sectors.
Promoting better use of natural resources
In budgetary terms, one third of direct payments and one third of rural development programmes will enable investment in the environmental sustainability of European agriculture. A new tool has been created in the form of ‘green’ payments. Mobilising millions of farmers, specific measures will be implemented at European level to combat climate change, stem the loss of biodiversity, and improve the quality of soils and of our environment in general.
The entire European agricultural sector will integrate the environmental dimension into the production process in the long term, centred around simple or genuinely equivalent measures. This represents a fundamental change in mindset: the CAP does more than just impose penalties. It provides a specific tool with which to promote and improve production methods.
We do not want to safeguard only some small pockets of protected nature while forgetting all the rest. With greening, we are going to create a dynamic for all forms of agriculture in Europe, as a logical part of sustainable production. Moreover, the second pillar’s agri-environmental measures are going to become more ambitious. Because it is very clear that there will not be any overlap between the measures financed under the first pillar and those financed under the second. There will therefore be a qualitative leap for the second pillar.
These are the few aspects which I wanted to share with you this morning. They are only basic points; I think that by the end of the day you will have obtained all the details from the experts at your disposal. Once again, I sincerely thank you for your involvement and I encourage you to stay mobilised on the issue of agriculture and the Common Agricultural Policy.
This link which we have forged over the past three years of discussions must remain strong. How our society produces its food, uses its natural resources and ensures balanced development of its rural areas: all these subjects require long-term consideration which goes beyond a reform of the CAP. They relate to our model of society and countless aspects of our daily lives. They therefore require constant attention and lasting commitment.