Last call for the EU to address severe CAP shortcomings

Posted on 21 June 2021

Co-legislators have a narrow margin to clinch a political agreement that doesn’t leave EU farming policy completely at odds with the European Green Deal

What is happening?

On 24 and 25 June, EU institutions will hold what are expected to be the final trilogue negotiations on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). 

The Council of the EU and the European Parliament failed to reach a CAP agreement in May and aim to strike a deal by the end of June, before the wrap-up of the Portuguese presidency of the Council. With several sticking points on the agenda, this final stretch of negotiations is their last chance to bring the farming policy somewhat closer to the European Green Deal.

Why is this important?

The trilogue is happening just days after the Court of Auditors released a damning report confirming that the CAP has fully missed its objective of making EU agriculture more climate-friendly.

Agriculture in the EU is one of the leading causes of nature loss and is both a key driver and victim of climate change. The CAP receives around one-third of the entire EU budget but it has repeatedly failed to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and, in some cases, has even supported climate-unfriendly practices, according to the new report.

The current reform, due for implementation in 2023, is, therefore, an unparalleled opportunity to use EU funding to support farmers in the transition away from intensive agriculture and towards nature- and climate-friendly farming. However, following the Parliament and Council’s deplorable starting positions and the Council’s regressive stance during the trilogue negotiations, precious little remains today of the ambition to make the future EU farm policy greener and fairer.

Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture at the WWF European Policy Office, said:
We need a CAP that is compatible with the aims of the European Green Deal, helping farmers adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and address agriculture’s impact on the environment. But the trilogues have proven how little the Council of the EU is willing to offer to the somewhat more ambitious Parliament, while the recent, stronger position taken by the Commission has faced severe criticism from farm lobbies and ministers alike. Perhaps it’s time President von der Leyen stepped in and showed she is serious about implementing her Green Deal and supporting a green recovery for EU agriculture.”

What will WWF be looking for?

WWF has been calling on the European Union to turn the CAP into a key instrument for delivering on the objectives of the European Green Deal. Though the co-legislators have by now agreed on most of the policy’s aspects, there remain a few elements that, if adopted, could still improve the CAP’s environmental provisions, including:

Conditionality: The co-legislators have watered down conditionality – a set of do-no-harm requirements attached to EU farm subsidies – to a mere consolidation of existing rules, but the trilogue can still give it some credibility by discontinuing the failed CAP greening rules on crop diversification and “ecological focus areas”. Instead, a much better deal must be sought on the new conditionality standards that aim to protect farmland soils and biodiversity.

Eco-schemes: The biggest risk is that eco-schemes are implemented as a flat-rate payment with little environmental ambition, as many farm unions are currently calling for. Such greenwashing could make any ring-fencing irrelevant but can still be prevented during trilogue by clearly establishing that eco-schemes must include different payment levels, offering attractive rewards in proportion to the efforts made by the farmer.

Links to the Green Deal: There is an utter disconnect between the CAP regulations and the European Green Deal, but a few amendments proposed by the Parliament still explicitly link the two policies on aspects related to data gathering and performance assessments. These provisions must be preserved as they are the only serious governance mechanism for the EU to take action on Member States if the latter misuse the large flexibility in CAP implementation and fail to contribute to EU-wide objectives.

What happens next?

The agreement will set the stage for the final drafting of the national strategic plans, in which Member States set out how they’ll implement the CAP until 2027. The Member States have until the end of this year to submit the plans to the European Commission, which will review and eventually approve them in 2022.

For more information:

Jabier Ruiz
Senior Policy Officer, Agriculture & Food Systems
WWF European Policy Office

Bartosz Brzezinski
Communications Officer
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 484 28 15 10
The CAP must support the transition to nature friendly farming
© Seppo Leinonen
Is it time for the President von der Leyen to step in and protect the implementation of the European Green Deal?
© Dagmar Cohnen