Following the negotiations on the Direct Payments Regulation

COMAGRI will vote on compromise amendments to the Commission’s proposals for the four main CAP regulations this week. To understand the dynamics of the legislative process, it is helpful to be able to see the positions of the main institutions side-by-side. I have constructed a four-column spreadsheet table showing, article by article, the positions of the main actors as we know them to date for the direct payments regulation (download the file to your computer by clicking File, Download in the upper left of the Google Drive document when the link opens). The four columns show, for each article:

    The Commission’s proposal October 2011
    The COMAGRI rapporteur’s amendments May 2012
    The Council’s position as summarised in the Cyprus Presidency document December 2012
    The COMAGRI compromise amendments Jan 2013

I have only had the time to construct this table for the direct payments regulation so far. There may be readers who have already done this exercise for the other regulations and, if you are prepared to share the table, I would be happy to post it on this site with attribution.
The Council column shows amendments which the Cyprus Presidency believed had broad support, but the Council’s position is not agreed until everything is agreed so these positions could change. The adoption of the compromise amendments by COMAGRI this week will change the dynamics of the Council decision-making, as there will now be a focus on whether the COMAGRI position could also be adopted as the Council position so as to facilitate a first reading agreement.
Also, some of the items which both the Council and COMAGRI have taken positions on are included in the MFF negotiations which will be decided by the European Council (the share of national ceilings allocated to greening, flexibility between the Pillars, capping, the formula for external convergence). An extra column should be added to the table to reflect its views on these issues.
Nonetheless, the side-by-side view shows where there is convergence between the Council and COMAGRI and where the likely sticking points will arise in the trilogue negotiations. Some highlights (not a complete summary) are:

    1. Definition of active farmer based on negative list (Article 9, both Council and COMAGRI).
    2. Flexibility to move funds between Pillars increased (Article 14, both Council and COMAGRI).
    3. Countries which have already adopted the regional SPS model can decide to maintain their current distribution of payment entitlements (Article 18, Council and COMAGRI).
    4. Countries applying the SAPS system can keep this as a transitional system until 2020 (Article 18, COMAGRI)
    5. Limits on the redistribution arising from internal convergence (Article 22, COMAGRI has two alternative proposals for member states in its amendment).
    6. Complementary payment for the first hectares. (This is a new Article 28a proposed by COMAGRI, reflecting a French proposal to allow up to 30% of a MS national ceiling to be used to top up the basic payment on initial hectares up to a maximum of 50 ha. This is also likely to be supported in the Council).
    7. The green payment is made voluntary and explicitly termed an additional annual payment. MS would have the possibility to pay it as a percentage of a farmer’s basic payment rather than a flat rate per ha (Article 29, COMAGRI).
    8. The green payment is automatically extended to groups of farmers seen as ‘green by definition’ (Article 29, both Council and COMAGRI).
    9. A variety of equivalent practices are defined which would qualify farmers for the green payment in Pillar 1 (Article 29, both Council and COMAGRI).
    10. Requirements for crop diversification relaxed especially for smaller farms (Article 30, both Council and COMAGRI).
    11. Requirement to maintain ratio of permanent pasture to total agricultural area at farm level is eliminated and reinstated at national or regional levels (Article 31, COMAGRI with Council also looking for flexibility).
    12. Requirement for EFAs reduced to 3% initially, rising to 5% in 2016 and possibly 7% following a Commission report in 2017. Areas qualifying for EFAs extended (Article 32, COMAGRI with Council also seeking relaxation of Commission’s original proposals).
    13. Small farmers scheme made voluntary (Article 47, both Council and COMAGRI).

This list of highlights suggests that, at least as regards the direct payments regulation, both legislative institutions are converging on a similar set of proposals and no issue sticks out which might cause real difficulties when the trilogue negotiations begin even if details of the specific issues remain to be harmonised.
Photo credit: AgendaNI

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