On Thursday June 23, the European Parliament adopted what is known as the Deß Report, “The CAP towards 2020: Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges of the future,” a document that expresses its position regarding the on-going Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform process.
The CAP is currently structured into two pillars. The first pillar consists of measures aimed at supporting the market, such as direct payments to producers, export refunds, support for intervention buying and stockpiling. The measures contained in the second pillar (which accounts for around 20 percent of the total budget) are aimed at supporting the development of rural areas and the attainment of environmental objectives. Measures used include payments to farmers who adopt agroecological practices, income support for the most deprived areas, infrastructural investments, etc.
The position expressed by the European Parliament certainly contains some positive points. Firstly, the Parliament has voted strongly in favor of maintaining the CAP’s budget and in favor of maintaining the resources allocated to fund the second pillar. This position is particularly positive given the risk of reduced funding to the second pillar during the legislative passage to approve the European Union’s 2014-2020 budget. The Europe of tomorrow needs a strong CAP and, above all, a strong second pillar, able to bring about a rural renaissance and confront the numerous challenges facing the European Union.
The Parliament’s position also confirms some of the best proposals already advanced by the Commission, which would help direct reform down the right path. These include the proposal to tie the payments under the first pillar to green measures, to put a cap on direct payments, to limit direct payments to active farmers only and to reinforce the contractual power of producers and consumers with regard to agroindustry and large-scale retailing. The Parliament also recognized the need for agricultural funding to be distributed more fairly among the different countries and different types of production, abandoning first of all the use of historic references in defining distribution criteria. The Parliament has also asked that certain measures be adopted at a global level, such as a world notification system for food stocks to tackle speculation on agricultural commodities, one of the biggest factors in price instability.
While acknowledging the positive aspects of the adopted position, we must draw attention to a lack of concreteness that characterizes the resolution. In the face of valid and shareable statements of principle, the Parliament does not provide clear guides that define more precisely what instruments should be adopted to reach the set objectives. It is legitimate to expect greater precision from the Parliament regarding the instruments with which it intends to make its vision of the future agricultural system become a reality. Instead the European Commission will be left with few concrete indications regarding the contents of the legislative proposals to be presented next autumn.
Additionally, it would have been better to take a clearer and more decisive position in regards to the need to bring about a strong “greening” of the CAP. A general statement—like the one expressed by the Parliament—about the validity of linking payments in the first pillar to green measures is by no means sufficient to forcefully tackle the serious environmental and climactic challenges of future years.
Regarding this, Slow Food asks the Commission to place small- and medium-scale production at the center of the legislative proposals to be presented this autumn regarding the future CAP, in a way that supports regional production identities and a locally focused and environmentally friendly agricultural system. To this end, the Commission must defend the CAP budget from possible cuts and allocate the second pillar, in particular, with a strong financial endowment.
Agricultural producers must also be able to obtain an adequate income from their work and must be repaid for the irreplaceable environmental services they provide. We also call on the Commission to stop depopulation and the aging of the population in the countryside, starting with bringing young people back to work in the agriculture sector. Finally the Commission must ensure a greater centrality, greater strength and more market opportunities to virtuous producers and, at the same time, educate consumers and bring them closer to the world of agricultural production.