CAP 2020-2027 - Launch by Commissioner Hogan

Last night at a special meeting of the AGRI committee of the European Parliament Commissioner Phil Hogan launched a document titled ‘The Future of Food and Farming’. Basically it was the opening Commission position for the next round of CAP, from 2020 to 2027, but Mr Hogan said it himself - this is about evolution rather than revolution. “Unlike 2013 I don’t see this as a major reform,” he told an unusually packed room, then went on to express the hope that this could all be done and dusted before the next European Parliament elections, in mid-2019.

There are no major new concepts, though there are some ‘big ideas’. One of those is more subsidiarity for the Member States, the document stating: ‘The Union should set the basic policy parameter, while Member States should bear greater responsibility and be more accountable as to how they meet the objectives and agreed targets.’ Under this, it is envisaged that Member States will generate a Strategic Plan tailored to their own needs, but this must then be approved by the Commission. This will also include targets and performance indicators that must then be met, with a parallel penalty system also envisaged.

Another change is the amalgamation of ‘greening’ with the environmental measures in Pillar Two, though how this is going to work in practice is unclear.

Commenting afterwards, AGRI member Luke Ming Flanagan MEP welcomed the continued funding of CAP, “Although,” he added, “The document as presented is aspirational, lacking in detail”.

He pointed out to the Commissioner, however, that many of those aspirations could in fact have been achieved under the old CAP had the will been there, issues such as: underpinning the family farm; greater convergence of payments; addressing environmental challenges. However, Member States - Ireland especially - exploited the flexibilities that were built into the current CAP to pander to vested interests.

“What’s to prevent those Member States continuing these practices, given that the new proposal is to give them even greater autonomy?” asked Mr Flanagan; “After 2020, will some farmers continue to be on €700/hectare while others are on €160/hectare, as is happening at the moment?”

The Midlands/North-West MEP also questioned the wisdom of the apparent watering down of ‘greening’, given that in the broad-ranging consultation process, environmental concerns had figured prominently.

“Look, it’s an important document, but this is just the starting point. What it looks like as a finished product is what’s most important. We have a big couple of years ahead of us in the AGRI committee, especially from an Irish perspective. The current imbalance in the payment system in some Member States, and we’re one of those Member States, has to be finally addressed. A simple means to do this would be to take a bottom-up approach - apply the payments on a front-loaded basis, with per-hectare payments reduced as land holding increased. I was encouraged by some of what Commissioner Hogan said in response to questions - including my own - on this issue, encouraged also by what he said about the definition of active farmers, where he was adamant that this would include part-time farmers. As I said, however, there is much work to be done to really improve the current CAP.”