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Negotiations on the final text of the incoming CAP regulations are intensifying, as the clock ticks down to May 31st, the date the Council has set for an agreement to be reached.

Time is particularly pressing as EU member states, including Ireland, need an agreement to be reached on the details of the reformed policy, which will apply from 2023, in order to draft their national CAP Strategic Plans, which will outline the actions to be taken nationally and must be submitted to the Commission by the end of the year.

To date, an agreement has been reached on some of the administrative elements of the policy, such as:

  • Principles for audits, control systems and penalties;
  • The 22 performance indicators which will be used to measures the progress achieved by Member Stats’s national interventions – over 50% of these are environmental indicators;
  • Most recently, the definition of an Active Farmer, which Member States will need to apply, in addition, to a national definition, to decide who is eligible to receive direct payments. The EU definition is a negative list of criteria. However, discussions continue over the thresholds of agricultural activity to qualify.

However, the majority of the key issues are still to be decided, including:

  • The targeting of direct payments; i.e. issues such as mandatory capping and degressivity, the rate of convergence (which will fall between 85% to 100%) and support for young farmers (with the debate ranging between 3% or 4% of national pillar 1 envelopes).
  • The green architecture; including the percentage of funding to be reserved for eco-schemes (with the Council seeking a starting point of 22% which would go up to 25% in 2025, while the Parliament and Commission are standing firm on 30%); the degree of flexibility Member states have in designing eco-schemes and whether nationally designed eco-schemes will be accompanied by EU proposed schemes; and the exact terms of “conditionality”, i.e. the mandatory environmental actions which include cross compliance and Good Agricultural Practices. Specifically, there is a debate on GAEC 4 (establishment of buffer strips along water courses including the use of pesticides & fertilisers) and GAEC 9 (minimum share of agricultural area devoted to non-productive features or, with a debate on what landscape features should or should not count).
  • Market and crisis management tools; including changes to Public Intervention and Private Storage Aid for dairy products such as extending its availability to all year round and deleting the fixed-price system for buy-in under Intervention (so instead it would operate only on a tendering system), as well as the establishment of a Voluntary Production Reduction Scheme (with the accompanying levy on expanding producers initially suggested by the Parliament now shot down).

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive