CAP, farmers reject the EU proposal: “Inadequate measures and uncertain times”

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(Finance) – The first package of measures proposed by the European Commission to simplify the bureaucracy and environmental commitments of the new common agricultural policy (CAP) by reducing the burdens on EU farmers, it does not satisfy the trade associations. The document, which will be discussed with the Member States at the Council “Agriculture and Fisheries” (Agrifish) scheduled for Monday 26 February in Brussels, lists a series of short- and medium-term actions that can be undertaken to achieve simplification. “With this series of actions, we are keeping the commitment made to our farmers, underlined the President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen. But from Confagricoltura to Coldiretti the rejection is clear.

“Farmers have asked for a drastic simplification of the bureaucratic requirements imposed by the CAP. The European Commission’s response is absolutely inadequate. Some initiatives are even postponed until next autumn. Instead, we need immediate and effective decisions – states the president of Confagricoltura, Massimiliano Giansanti –. The Commission’s guidelines do not allow the problems posed by farmers to be resolved, with particular reference to the so-called ‘enhanced cross-compliance’. We note the willingness to review the obligations established by the CAP regarding mandatory crop rotation and the use of land for non-productive purposes. In the meantime, however, in the absence of a total exemption for 2024, the sanctions must at least be suspended. In this regard, the possibility of recognizing, at a national level, the condition of force majeure should be expanded as much as possible. The procedures for modifying the national strategic plans must then be simplified and speeded up”. Giansanti also defined the proposal, put forward by the EU, to exempt companies with an area of ​​up to 10 hectares from checks on compliance with cross-compliance. “If a rule is wrong and introduces too onerous obligations, – underlines the president of Confagricoltura – must be eliminated for everyone. Without discrimination based on company surface area. We will decide on the proposals to improve the position of farmers in the value chain when they are actually dismissed.”

“In the proposals put forward by the Commission – explains the president of Coldiretti Ettore Prandini commenting on the simplification package for agriculture that the EU Commission sent to the Belgian presidency of the EU – we have read some simplifications we proposed, but there is a lack of completeness and certainty of details. They have finally noticed some aspects on which to intervene, such as environmental conditionality and the rationalization of controls. Intervention hypotheses for small farmers are also positive. However – Prandini specifies – at the moment they are just declarations: the times of companies do not match the times of European bureaucracy. We want concrete answers and immediate interventions. It’s no longer time for announcements, we need to change the rules that penalize agriculture. Coldiretti’s position does not change: on Monday we will be back in Brussels to demonstrate in the streets together with thousands of farmers to have certain times and tools to change the European policies that threaten the survival of the sector”.

For the President Cia – Italian Farmers the “first steps forward towards the revision of the CAP with exemptions on controls and sanctions have been made, but there is still a lot to do to reduce the administrative burdens of farmers and work towards fair remuneration in the food chain” . Cia reports that it has presented a platform with priorities to Commissioner Wojciechowski, in view of the Agrifish meeting on 26 February. In terms of the revision of the CAP – according to Cia – “it is essential to start a reflection on the eco-schemes which, one year after their implementation, have reduced the values ​​of the expected unit amounts by up to 50%; as well as rethinking the value of the premiums coupled and greater flexibility on the rules of environmental conditionality. For the set-aside of land, a definitive removal of the obligation to leave the 4% intended for arable land uncultivated is needed, as well as expanding the incentives for those under 40 beyond the first 5 years of activities to encourage generational turnover and strengthen risk management tools to broaden the base of insured agricultural companies”. The CAP, according to Cia, “must get rid of the bureaucratic burden that distinguishes it, favoring digitalisation”. Regarding thefair remuneration within the agri-food chain, for Fini, “it is urgent to create a European observatory on prices and margins that shares market data and to make the directive on unfair commercial practices more effective”. On the topic of relations with non-EU countriesFinally, Cia asks for a “guarantee of reciprocity in production standards”, considering the agreement that is being envisaged with Mercosur “detrimental to the entire European rural system”.

The measures proposed by the European Commission – In the non-paper sent to national governments, Brussels proposes to reduce the bureaucracy and controls for farmers by up to 50%, also providing for various exemptions from cross-compliance obligations to obtain CAP funds. “The set of basic standards (in technical jargon BCAA, good agricultural and environmental conditions) that all farmers must respect” to receive funding “has proven difficult to implement”, underlines the EU executive. For this reason, in addition to the new stop already approved for the whole of 2024 on the obligation to put 4% of land fallow, the EU executive proposes to modify the BCAA1 standard, which imposes the obligation to keep permanent grassland areas in the EU stable from the reference year 2018. The measure – explains the EU executive – should “ensure that farmers are not penalized in their work, contributing to reducing costs burdens since fewer areas should be converted into permanent grassland”. Brussels also proposes to clarify the use of the concept of “force majeure” and “exceptional circumstances” to allow farmers who cannot meet all the requirements of the CAP due to exceptional and unforeseeable events outside their control – as in the case of severe drought or floods – not to have sanctions imposed. The Commission will then launch an online consultation in March aimed directly at farmers to “identify the main sources of concern and understand the sources of administrative burdens and complexity arising from the rules of the CAP” and other regulations relating to “food and agriculture and their application at the national level”. The survey, highlights Brussels, “will provide a clearer picture of the main obstacles by the summer” and “the results will be included in a more detailed analysis to be published in autumn 2024”.