Why we need to radically change the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy

Source: Greennews.ie

28 August 2020

125,000 individuals receive Common Agriculture
Policy payments in Ireland, which accounts for over half of average farm
income. Not everyone is happy with the level of CAP’s environmental ambition,
however.

12 national coalitions from around Europe, including
Ireland’s Environmental Pillar, have come together to co-sign a letter
demanding radical change in how farming is funded as the German Presidency has
made it clear that it wants to conclude the CAP negotiations within the terms
of its presidency which ends on 31st December.

But why now – and what are the demands?

On 31st
August and 1st September, Agriculture Ministers from the EU’s member
states will meet for what’s called the monthly AGRIFISH meeting.

While each
of the Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers are powerful in their
own ways, the Council is probably the most important institution. Big money
decisions tend to be driven by national ministers or prime ministers in these
collective meetings.

This
meeting, one of the first significant events of the six-month German
Presidency, comes at a rarefied time.

A pressure
cooker has been bubbling away for some months: angry farmers and young
environmental activists have both taken to the streets demanding change; Covid-19
has placed an enormous strain on everything, including the agri-food sector.

However the
huge environmental crises –climate, biodiversity, pollution – are still looming
large and impacting daily.

EU Green Deal and CAP

Into this
context, somewhat surprisingly, the EU Commission came up with a reasonably
strong EU Green Deal at the start of its tenure in 2019. There is much to
criticize in the Green Deal, and in the watering down of the spending plans by Prime
Ministers recently, but in global terms it’s probably the strongest large scale
direction-change attempted by a major
power block in recent decades.

The
agri-food elements of the EU Green Deal – the Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity
Strategies – are genuinely ambitious: against much opposition, real targets for 2030 were left in
place: reductions in pesticides (down 50%), in overuse of fertilizer (down
20%), and for an increase in high diversity landscapes (10%) organic farming
(up to 25% by 2030).

What’s
more, the Commission released a working document for integrating CAP and the Green
Deal. This states that the CAP plans currently being written by EU Member
States like Ireland must now reflect the ambitions of the Green Deal. A whole list of existing Directives and
regulations
are
cited (Annex XI), which the Commission will use to “take account of needs
identified in the European Green Deal and assure that CAP support is not
targeted at practices that are considered environmentally harmful.”

CAP Fails Biodiversity

This is
necessary because, whatever about the hype, CAP fails spectacularly on
environment. There is much evidence for this. In particular the European Court
of Auditors, a small EU institution with a remit that includes assessing value
for money in EU activities, has released a series of damning reports that show
CAP money is largely wasted when it comes to environmental performance.

Just one of
these reports found that E66 Billion biodiversity spend in CAP has “not halted the decline”: in fact, “since 1990…populations
of farmland birds and grassland butterflies have declined by more than 30%”
(2020 Report 13, page 4). Words like “insufficient” and “limited” pepper the
document, as does criticism of a lack of data, measurements or real monitoring.

It’s
difficult to imagine this level of failure being tolerated elsewhere, but in
the immortal words of Brian Cowen,”we are where we are”.

CAP Planning in Ireland and EU

In this
context, Ireland is in the process of writing up its CAP plan. The
Environmental Pillar, made up of 31 national environmental NGOs, inputs.
However, the majority of the two dozen organisations involved are mainstream
agri-food, farming and government representatives. The Pillar has the huge task
of fighting for a CAP plan that will really embrace biodiversity collapse,
runaway climate change, loss of pristine rivers, ammonia pollution and a host
of other ecological realities.

On Monday
and Tuesday, the EU’s agriculture ministers will meet to progress CAP. With an
unplanned sequence of agriculture ministers due to scandals, who knows who
Ireland will send?

Nevertheless,
in light of this EU meeting, the Environmental Pillar has joined with 11 other
national coalitions from around the EU, representing in total over 400 civil
society organisations, to demand radical change in CAP.

This letter, led by the EU-wide Good Food Good
Farming coalition and France’s Pour Une Autre Pac coalition, demands more
ambition from the CAP process. Taking a food sovereignty approach, it focuses
on public goods for public money, rather than blind per hectare payments; more
robust performance monitoring and a shift to results-based payments; improved
stakeholder inclusion and transparency; and yes EU Green Deal compatibility.

From Covid
to climate, it’s hard to imagine a more important time to bring farming and
food more into line with planetary needs. What’s both infuriating and
compelling is the fact a majority of farmers, and the whole of society, would
benefit from the approach to agri-food that’s outlined in this 400 organisation letter. Read it, share it, and act on it.

Oliver Moore works for ARC2020 and Cultivate.
Cultivate is on the Environmental Pillar, while ARC2020 is involved with the
Good Food Good Farming coalition.

The post Why we need to radically change the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy appeared first on Green News Ireland.

https://greennews.ie/eu-cap-reform-2020-op-ed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eu-cap-reform-2020-op-ed