How green will the EU dare to go in reforming the CAP?Brussels, Belgium - The European Commission presents today its proposals for the Mid Term Review of the Common Agricultural Policy.
WWF, the Global Environment Network, welcomes Commissioner Fischler’s daring step in proposing a package which offers significant potential for an environmentally sustainable development of rural areas by:
- Shifting monies away from market measures, by modulating funds in favour of rural development.
- Defining an EU level framework for environmental standards as a precondition for all payments.
- Decoupling payments away from driving intensification.
However, WWF fears that Member States will refuse to move from the current unsustainable agricultural policy. WWF is also concerned that:
- The Commission be clear in defining a stringent and meaningful framework for environmental standards in agriculture.
- That no clear link has been made between the extra funding made available for rural development and using these for environmental purposes.
- That funds continue to move away from supporting farmers in less-favoured marginal areas, where high nature value is dependent upon farming.
Only 15% of total CAP budget is today specifically allocated to supporting the environment and rural development even though, according to the last Eurobarometer, that is what 88% of European consumers expect from a sustainable agricultural policy. The Commission is now seeking a long overdue increase in public support for rural development by ‘modulating’ monies away from market measures to the tune of €600 million in 2005, with rural development reaching near to a third of total CAP expenditure over 7 years.
“All Member States talk about rural development, but are they willing to put their money where their mouth is?" asked Elizabeth Guttenstein, Head of Agriculture and Rural Development at WWF. "A strong rural development policy is key to harnessing the long-term economic and social development of rural areas. It also directs the public purse to sustaining that public good markets just don’t deliver upon: the environment" said Elizabeth.
The Commission is also proposing to move away from environmentally damaging subsidies paid according to what or how much farmers produce, to individual income payments dependent upon the respect of EU-wide environmental standards. This is a great step forward if it allows farmers to produce what society wants, and not according to what provides the biggest subsidy cheque. WWF welcomes this move, but warns that ‘decoupled’ payments are not an environmental achievement per se if they do not deliver ecological benefits.
The Commission has set itself a tall order in proposing to define an EU-wide set of standards for the environment, animal welfare, food safety and quality; as a condition for all future payments.
“It’s the only way forward to ensuring a meaningful approach across Member States. However, WWF will be keeping a keen eye on which standards the Commission actually defines, so that the exercise doesn’t become a means to improve only economic competitiveness”, said Elizabeth Guttenstein.
An injection of funds into rural development is sorely needed if the EU wants to truly achieve a ‘second pillar’ of the CAP. However, more money is not in itself a guarantee of a greener and more sustainability policy.
Speaking yesterday at a joint press meeting with CEJA, the Young Farmers’ Union, WWF agreed that funds now need to be ‘re-coupled’ to those instruments that deliver on sustainability. In particular, monies must be directed to the weakest links in the rural chain. Funding also needs to be directed to those regions where maintaining farming means preserving biodiversity. For example, to farmers in the Swedish Alvar or in the Murcian hinterland that produce extensively for local markets, and are the environmental gatekeepers in areas of high nature value that would otherwise be abandoned.
"Less-favoured area, agri-environment schemes and other measures which support sustainable farming in the more marginal areas of the EU, must be allocated the lion’s share of the budget. Furthermore, WWF supports the Commission’s proposal to redistribute funds between countries according to such priorities, although we urge the Commission and Council to consider directing these funds also to the Candidate Countries ” concluded Elizabeth Guttenstein.
For further information please contact:
WWF European Policy Office
Agriculture and Rural Development
Tel +32 2 740 09 24
Fax +32 2 743 88 19
Tel +32 2 740 0925
Mobile +32 497 258 042