MEP's must reject double pay-out to farmers , Environment measures will suffer from illegal move

Posted on 16 January 2013    
Big tractor for cultures on large parcels of land. Pleven area, Bulgaria. September, 2006
© © Michel GUNTHER / WWF

(Brussels, 16 January 2013) On 23-24 of January, the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development will vote its position on the Common Agricultural Policy reform. In the run up to this vote, WWF is warning Members of the European Parliament to eliminate the possibility of effectively paying farmers double subsidies for the same action undertaken.

Under future rules, farmers who receive payments for agri-environmental schemes under Pillar 2 (Rural Development) would automatically be eligible for the 30% greening payment under Direct Payments (Pillar 1). This means that farmers would effectively receive a double payment for undertaking the same actions.
Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office criticised the proposal by saying
“Apart from the serious ethical problem of paying farmers twice for doing the same job, funding for environmental measures is already under pressure and if a regime of double payments is brought in there will be less money available for a real greening of the CAP.
Already the CAP is struggling to win public legitimacy. Citizens don’t understand why many farmers are receiving blank cheques while destroying the environment. If double payments are being introduced taxpayers will feel that they have been cheated and a backlash will rightly ensue.”
There is a lack of consistency from certain MEPs from centre and right who are ideologically against subsidies but at the same time are supportive of double payments. This double standard must stop. 
The issue in detail
The greening of the CAP concerns both the Direct Payments system (Pillar 1) and Rural Development (Pillar 2). A majority of the conservative and liberal members of the AGRI committee have been trying to block the environmental baseline for agri-environment measures from being built further upon the greening measures under Pillar 1, and thereby restricting environmental improvements of this policy.
This double payments system is far from sound budgetary management, illegal under European law and not compatible with WTO rules. The European Commission has already strongly rejected this approach. 
Currently agri-environment measures receive around €3 billion in yearly funding from the CAP budget. If this double funding is introduced it will effectively mean that agri-environment, one of the little positive funding lines under the CAP, will simply become a glorified top-up fund. Instead it should be used to support real improvement at farm level that tackles specific problems like climate change, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity, all of which agriculture contributes to heavily.
If farmers wish to secure additional funding from agri-environment they should go beyond the baseline of greening measures introduced in Pillar 1. This is also the view of the Commission as laid out in its concept paper of May 2012.
For more information on this issue please see the Institute for European Environmental Policy working Paper Principles of Double Funding: Briefing for the UK Land Use Policy Group.

Source of the article

Philippe Carr, WWF European Policy Office,
Media & Communications, 
WWF European Policy Office,
Tel: +32 476 25 68 79
Big tractor for cultures on large parcels of land. Pleven area, Bulgaria. September, 2006
© © Michel GUNTHER / WWF Enlarge