Last week marked a pivotal milestone in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and for the future of EU agriculture, as both co-legislators, agriculture Ministers and MEPs, defined their positions and significantly moved the dial on environmental action within the policy.
Both institutions committed to an unprecedented level of funding being ringfenced for environmental and climate action, in particular through the introduction of new eco-schemes under Pillar 1 which would cover areas such as enhancing carbon sequestration, improving water quality, tackling soil erosion, improving animal welfare, and maintaining wetlands and peatlands, amongst others. The positions also increase the baseline standard measures with new statutory management requirements for water policy, for animal diseases and for the sustainable use of pesticides, all without further support.
NGOs and Green MEPs however sought a rejection of the policy for not going far enough, called it the “kiss of death” for the EU Green Deal. One of the first votes in the European Parliament last week was to reject the draft policy and go back to the drawing board entirely. While the vote was supported by only 24% of MEPs, there was considerable social media action, encouraged by climate activist Greta Thunberg, under the hashtag #VoteThisCAPDown.
This criticism underplays the significant challenges this new policy will bring for bring for farmers, in the form of ambitious targets and performance-based payments. Farmers in Ireland earn on average, 40% of the average industrial wage and yet will be required to make significant new investments within the next 7 years to meet climate and environmental objectives. The agri-food community, has had to grapple this year with the unexpected and severe impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis and in the coming years face further uncertainty as a result of Brexit and our new trading relationship with the UK. Despite this, they are continuously investing and raising the bar on environmental action, which we see every day on the grounds in the likes of the ASSAP programme, and Origin Green.
The EU Green Deal promises a “Just Transition” for all, and that is central to the positions adopted by Agriculture Ministers and MEPs, which provide farmers with a supportive framework for them to continue to transition towards enhanced environmental conservation while also supporting farm livelihoods, production quality and security of supply.
Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive
28 May 2021