WWF anger at EU Parliament COMAGRI voting decisions ----- Double funding goes through | WWF

WWF anger at EU Parliament COMAGRI voting decisions ----- Double funding goes through

Posted on 23 January 2013
Big tractor for cultures on large parcels of land. Pleven area, Bulgaria. September, 2006
© © Michel GUNTHER / WWF

(Brussels, 23 January 2013) WWF voiced its anger as the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) voted to support a number of controversial proposals that would effectively remove most of the limited environmental benefits the future Common Agricultural Policy could deliver. This flies in the face of the European Commission’s original proposal that was trying to re-legitimise the EU’s farm policy by introducing environmental conditionality to direct subsidies.

This COMAGRI stance will be examined in a plenary vote by all Members of the European Parliament, after which it will form the institution’s official stance on CAP reform when it negotiates on a final deal with the Council. The COMAGRI’s voting, which continues all day and tomorrow, may end up being endorsed by a plenary vote. WWF calls on all Members of the European Parliament to reject COMAGRI’s position and to vote in favour of a true greening of its agricultural policy.
Quotes Tony Long, Director WWF European Policy Office
A lost opportunity
“The environmental community is alarmed that the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development has effectively stripped away any meaningful greening from the proposed CAP. Under new rules introduced by the Lisbon Treaty this is the first time that the European Parliament has full co-decision power on CAP reform. COMAGRI has squandered a historic opportunity to support farming and environmental sustainability together and has lost all credibility.”
A Parliament Committee stacked out with farming interests
“COMAGRI’s reputation is now on the line. It will need to show that its regressive positions on CAP reform are not influenced by the short-term commercial interests of the farming and food industries and by its own composition which is heavily skewed towards past farm union officials and farmers.  The agri-food lobby is known to outspend all other stakeholders by a ratio of 4-1 when lobbying the EU, and they remain very influential in the Parliament (See footnote).”
Double Funding is passed through the committee.
“COMAGRI MEPs who voted for the “double funding” of farmers for the same environmental measures will have a lot to explain to their taxpayers. Not only is it illegal under EU law, but it will mean that billions of euros a year could be taken away from environmental programmes that are already suffering from budgets cuts. The loss will be directly felt by the environment, as farming will carry on with business as usual while squandering chances to tackle problems like climate change and the loss of biodiversity. It is shameful that center-right political groups have created a legal loophole for double funding based apparently because of  self-interest.”
How they voted today
The Direct Payments Regulation, which is aimed at reducing the overall level of “greening” proposed by the European Commission. Nearly all political groups represented on COMAGRI are keen on adopting a “menu-approach” which would allow national/ regional administrations to implement equivalent environmental measures that farmers can adopt easily without losing their subsidies rather than what is actually needed. Under this position the original three mandatory greening measures as proposed by the European Commission will become optional. This is a disaster as environmental actions focusing on different issues cannot be horse traded and the outcome will be weak environmental legislation. 
All groups in COMAGRI except for the Greens supported the watering down of the Commission’s proposal and are endorsing an “à la carte” approach which allows farmers to make easy choices that won’t deliver for the environment.
The Rural Development regulation has a number of illegitimate additions including the introduction of illegal double subsidies for farmers. COMAGRI also continues to support the Commission’s proposal for the introduction of a costly Income Stabilization Tool and insurance schemes that can swallow the bulk of the Rural Development fund.
The loophole allowing for double payments, would mean that farmers who receive payments by carrying out actions through agri-environment schemes under Rural Development, will automatically be eligible for the greening payments under Pillar 1 (and therefore receive double payments for the same action). This is not only bad financial management and illegal under the EU Treaties; it also means that up to €3 billion a year may be taken away from environmental schemes.
Double funding is widely supported by Centre Right Political Groups while S&D and Greens are strongly against double funding.
The proposed Income Stabilization Tool and farmer insurance schemes could financially cripple national Rural Development programmes as large claims could absorb all of its financial resources and syphon precious resources away from environmental measures. Such tools would also encourage further risk taking by farmers as they know they have financial cushioning through additional income support. Furthermore, income stabilization is the key goal of direct payments which guarantee farm income, so has nothing to do in the Rural Development pillar.
The EPP, S&D and ECR have supported this amendment.
The proposed mandatory minimum spending for environmental measures (agri-environment and organic farming) is welcomed under Pillar 2. However, given that this level of minimum spending is already present in the current 2007-2013 period, that there is significant pressure to reduce the Rural Development Fund and that the Council is opposed to any minimum spending at all; this earmarking should be increased.
This amendment was supported by all groups.
Currently there is a lack of support for the valuable “High Nature Value” (HNV) and organic farming systems, which play a crucial role in the delivery of environmental public goods and the rural economy. These farming systems need to be prioritised through thematic sub-programmes and a clear definition for HNV. This would provide more attention and possibilities for higher funding for these systems. 
Regrettably Political groups have agreed not to hold a vote of on a dedicated organic sub-programme. Only the Greens were in favour of such a sub-programme.
S&D and the Greens supported the amendment that would give a special status to HNV areas while other political groups have rejected it.

Source of the article

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