New EU farming policy will require Member States to deliver benefits for nature

Bee hive © PixabayToday the European Commission presented its Communication on the future of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) beyond 2020. The communication calls for a much needed transition towards more sustainable farming based on results, yet still lacks clear and mandatory EU targets to reduce the impact of our agriculture on nature and climate1.

Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems at WWF European Policy Office, said:

"Commissioner Hogan's proposal is the first to require Member States to deliver measurable benefits for nature and climate, setting the baseline for modern and sustainable farming. However, the future legislative proposal will have to define legally binding targets to ensure accountability at national level and avoid the misuse of flexibility that we have seen in the past."

The Commission proposes to give Member States a much stronger role in deciding how to allocate EU public subsidies to farmers. For WWF, this increased subsidiarity will only deliver positive results if matched with strong and measurable EU-wide environmental objectives and a reliable monitoring and accountability mechanism. Otherwise, the future CAP could lead to a renationalisation of farming policies and lose its crucial EU added value.

"A modern CAP that delivers good food and helps farmers in the transition to sustainability must find an alternative to inefficient tools like the current direct payments. We cannot give Agriculture Ministers free rein on how to spend a large part of EU taxpayers' money,  with the risk of maintaining a status quo which can no longer be justified", concluded Ruiz.

WWF welcomes the fact that Member States will have to integrate environmental legislation into their CAP strategic plans. For this to be effective, however, funding for nature and climate objectives needs to be ring-fenced in the next EU Budget, and environmental authorities must co-manage the CAP instruments used to deliver such targets.
 

The Communication will be discussed in the next months by the EU Agricultural Council and the European Parliament. This will feed into the next EU Budget debate and should lead to a clearer framework in the legislative proposals expected by mid-2018.

Notes for the editor

1 European agriculture is increasing its greenhouse gas emissions, continues to pollute and deplete our ever scarcer water resources, and puts an enormous pressure on our biodiversity.  In few decades, the total number of farmers in Europe has halved, common farmland birds have declined by 30% and only half of grassland butterflies are left. Accordingly, agriculture is identified as the primary cause of biodiversity loss, it uses more than 60% of freshwater reserves in water-scarce countries and is an important source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Almost all Europeans (94% according to the last Eurobarometer) are concerned about environmental protection, with agricultural pollution and soil degradation, and other farming-impacted issues ranking in the top 5 concerns. Moreover, 92% of citizens and 62% of farmers that took part in the Public Consultation on the Future CAP earlier this year were of the opinion that agricultural policy should deliver more benefits for environment and climate.

Read WWF's Position on CAP

Get SCCS updates