Who makes up the AGRI Committee for the 9th parliamentary term?

Last week, the new European Parliament elected in May set out to constitute itself for the coming parliamentary term. The Parliament’s President (David Sassoli, PS&D) and Vice-Presidents were elected for the first half session (2.5 years) and the political groups nominated their members to the various Parliamentary Committees. We now know the names of the 48 AGRI Committee members for the coming period (up from 46 members in the outgoing AGRI Committee), but who are they? And will the new faces make a difference to the Committee’s position on the various files it must address, not least the ongoing debate on the next CAP reform?

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Capping direct payments – a modest proposal

DG AGRI has published its latest breakdown of the distribution of direct payments in financial year (FY) 2017, which refers to payments made to farmers in the claim year (CY) 2016. The report itself has less text than usual, but lots of graphs showing the distributions of payments and recipients for the EU28 and by country. The detailed tables showing the numbers behind these graphs are given in the statistical annex.

A couple of points are worth remarking. The tables distinguish between the distribution of decoupled payments, other direct payments and total direct payments. The decoupled payments include the basic payment, greening payment, redistributive payment, young farmers’ payment, and the payment to areas facing natural constraints in Pillar 1.

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Climate policy in agriculture and carbon leakage

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a single country will usually lead to increased emissions in other countries – a phenomenon called carbon leakage (for simplicity, I will use the term carbon leakage although the same outcome also applies to other greenhouse gases). Various mechanisms contribute to this effect:

  • If climate policy increases production costs, this will reduce the competitiveness of domestic production relative to countries without or with a laxer climate policy. Consumers will shift their purchasing to the cheaper imported alternatives. The effect will be that some emissions-producing production will shift to third countries with the laxer climate policy – the competitiveness channel.
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What will the European Parliament elections mean for CAP reform?

The European Parliament (EP)’s agricultural committee adopted its Opinions on the three CAP-related legal proposals earlier this month. However, lack of time during this Parliamentary session before elections take place to the EP at the end of May means that the Parliament itself will not vote on these Opinions until after the new Parliament reconvenes in July.

While the outgoing committee would like to see the new Parliament use its Opinions as the starting point for its plenary voting, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. The composition of the political groups in the new Parliament may be very different to what has existed in the current Parliament.

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The GHG emissions challenge for agriculture

Agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU-28 have flat-lined since 2005 (see chart below). They fell slightly between 2005 and 2012 and have been increasing since then. In 2016, the agricultural sector was responsible for 430 million tonnes of GHG emissions in CO2 equivalents (CO2eq) compared to 434 million tonnes in 2005. This relative stability is due, I suspect, to a slow improvement in emissions intensity per unit of output offset by increased levels of output. The increase since 2012 is likely mainly associated with the removal of dairy quotas in 2015 which has allowed an expansion in the dairy herd in some countries, though these speculative hypotheses should be subject to more rigorous analysis.

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Designing CAP Strategic Plans to maximise environmental and climate potential

Those seeking to influence the design of the CAP post 2020 should understand the process of designing Strategic Plans, and the opportunities and constraints inherent in this process. In a recent working paper, I try to explain how Strategic Plans will be constructed and the key entry points for those seeking to improve the environmental and climate ambition of these Plans. The paper is written from a development perspective but the messages have a more general relevance.

The paper does not discuss how the CAP legislation itself might be improved from an environmental or development perspective. The Parliament’s Committee on Development and Environment Committee have submitted their Opinions to the agriculture committee with a range of suggestions in this regard (the latter still only available in Italian), although few were taken on board in the AGRI Committee voting .

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The looming EU- US WTO Spanish ripe olives dispute

An agenda item on the AGRI Committee’s last meeting in this Parliamentary term yesterday dealt with a presentation by DG AGRI’s Director for International Affairs John Clarke on the agricultural component of ongoing trade negotiations and other relevant issues of trade policy (starts at 16:23 on the meeting video). Amid a chorus of complaints from AGRI MEPs about poultry imports from Ukraine, tomato imports from Morocco and potential Brazilian tariffs on EU exports of garlic, Mr Clarke gave a robust and trenchant defence of the Commission’s role in managing international agricultural trade relations.

Among the items he covered was the EU response to the US imposition of countervailing and anti-dumping duties in 2018 on the import of Spanish ripe olives, confirming earlier preliminary determinations to impose provisional duties.

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COMAGRI lacks full transparency in crucial votes

Th AGRI Committee voted its Opinion on amendments to the CMO Regulation on Monday 1 April, its Opinion on the Strategic Plan Regulation on 2 April and will vote its Opinion on the Horizontal Regulation on financing, management and monitoring of the CAP today 8 April. I plan to comment on the substantive outcome of these votes in the coming days. In this post I want to comment on a procedural aspect of these votes that I find does not live up to the norms of acceptable practice and which makes it impossible for anyone not in the inner circle to follow the voting on these Opinions.

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AGRIFISH Council on CAP reform negotiations in mid-March

The AGRIFISH Council and the AGRI Committee of the European Parliament both held meetings to discuss their respective positions on the Commission’s proposed CAP regulations for the period post 2020 on Monday March 18th last. These meetings provided an opportunity to assess the progress made in each body to agree their initial positions as well as giving some insights into the changes that might be proposed. The AGRIFISH Council meeting was more informative in this respect. The AGRI Committee debate lacked focus because no formal positions were presented at its meeting and we must wait until its April meetings to see the compromise amendments it will decide.

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Revamped website

Regular readers will have noticed a lull in activity on the capreform.eu website in the last couple of months. Just before Christmas 2018 the site was hacked and spam posts were mailed out to subscribers. I decided to take the opportunity to rebuild the site with greater security and in the meantime to cease activity. I did write a few posts on a temporary blog which I have now transferred to this site. Those who subscribe to the site and receive posts by mail will have noticed a resumption of activity in the past two days as older posts have been mailed out (sometimes in duplicate, for which I apologise).

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