© Seppo Leinonen

It's crunch time for the EU's agricultural policy!

The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), the EU’s oldest and costliest policy, has been at the centre of heated backroom debates over what its future should look like. 

With the latest round of reforms behind us, EU farm ministers are finalising their national strategic plans, in which they set out how they’ll implement the CAP from 2023 to 2027. These plans are a novel instrument, introduced in this round of CAP reform to help each Member State better adjust policy interventions to their local conditions and needs, while also contributing to wider EU objectives that  at least on paper  aim for a higher level of environmental protection.

The CAP receives around 1/3 of the entire EU budget and has the potential to change the fate of biodiversity and climate in the EU, but so far it has utterly failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect water and wildlife as well as natural habitats [1][2][3]. The CAP must get on the right side of history and raise its environmental and climate ambitions to truly transform our food and farming systems.

© Seppo Leinonen

Why the CAP Strategic Plans matter

Despite the weak political agreement reached at the EU level, the battle for a more sustainable CAP is not over. Each Member State’s strategic plan outlines how the country intends to distribute farm subsidies on the ground. Historically, this was often done with few environmental conditions. Now is the time for farm ministers to support nature-friendly farming over the status quo.

The devil is in the details. With the strategic plans, the Member States can still raise the CAP’s ambition, not least by rewarding farmers who adopt sustainable agricultural practices - for example, through the new eco-scheme funds. But the risk of greenwashing remains high, as most eco-schemes currently proposed fall very short of expectations.

© Seppo Leinonen

The path to nature-friendly farming


WWF calls on the European Commission to take very strong and decisive action when reviewing the strategic plans, and on the Member States to raise their environmental ambition, focusing on these four cross-cutting priorities:  

  1. Conditionality: a set of do-no-harm requirements attached to EU farm subsidies. These agri-environmental conditions must not be watered down through poor implementation in the CAP strategic plans.

  2. Eco-schemes: one of the very few novel instruments in the future CAP; it must be ensured that these incentives do not end up as a low-ambition flat-rate payment for all farmers. 

  3. Targets: part of the revamped performance framework; Member States must establish targets for the key CAP impact indicators and collect all the data necessary for their calculation.

  4. Ring-fencing: central to ensuring joint efforts towards common objectives, CAP funds should be robustly earmarked for biodiversity, climate and environmental objectives, and all greenwashing scrapped.