The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Let us be clear at the outset. Brexit was always going to be a lose-lose situation for both the UK and the EU. Having said that, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) agreed on Christmas Eve between the UK and the EU which provisionally entered into force on 1 January this year was a very significant achievement for the two negotiating teams.

It represents a significant improvement over the ‘no deal’ Brexit that had threatened in the previous weeks. Critically, it prevents the imposition of tariffs on UK-EU trade, although subject to rules of origin to determine eligibility for the zero-tariff preferences.… Read the rest

Eco-schemes a work in progress

This post is written jointly with Dr. Norbert Röder of the Thünen Institute Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries.

Eco-schemes (schemes for the environment and climate) are the main innovation in the green architecture of the CAP proposed by the Commission in its draft CAP Strategic Plan Regulation in June 2018. As mandatory instruments, they would oblige Member States to allocate a proportion of their Pillar 1 payments to schemes that would directly benefit the environment and climate. Participation would be limited to genuine farmers but would be voluntary for them.

Both the Council and Parliament have proposed amendments to the Commission’s original proposal.… Read the rest

COVID-19 leaves limited traces in preliminary 2020 agricultural accounts

Eurostat has now published its preliminary estimates for the economic accounts for agriculture in the EU for 2020. This gives us the first authoritative overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural markets and farm incomes in what has been an extraordinary year. Until now, information on monthly trends in agricultural prices and agricultural trade has given us some partial insights into the impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector. Despite wobbles in some sectors, by and large these indicators show that the agricultural sector has been remarkably resilient. Despite this, significant aid packages have been made available to farmers by EU Member States.… Read the rest

Farm consolidation continues

How farms are structured in the EU has become the focus of increasing attention as a result of growing political concern over trends in farm consolidation and farmland concentration. This political interest has focused on different elements of structural change in EU agriculture. For some, the focus has been on land grabbing and the rise of large-scale land deals; for others, it is safeguarding the position of the family farm; for some, it is opposition to industrial farming and the growth of ‘mega’ farms; for others, it is defence of small farms, often seen as integral to food sovereignty; for some, the issue is generational renewal; while yet others focus on the decline in the overall number of farms.… Read the rest

The CAP Transitional Regulation and Next Generation EU funds

The European Parliament approved last Tuesday evening the common position on the CAP Transitional Regulation previously agreed with the Council. Once the Council gives its formal approval, it will take effect from 1 January 2021. The Regulation provides legal certainty regarding the rules for payments to farmers by continuing the application of the rules of the current CAP framework in the two calendar years 2021 and 2022 under the ‘old rules, new money’ principle.

The Regulation makes necessary amendments to the four CAP Regulations that make up the 2013 CAP reform (direct payments, rural development, single common market organisation, and horizontal matters).… Read the rest

The EU’s proposed ‘net 55%’ reduction target for 2030 – a clarification

One of the decisions taken at the European Council summit last week was an agreement that “To meet the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050 in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the EU needs to increase its ambition for the coming decade and update its climate and energy policy framework. To that end, the European Council endorses a binding EU target of a net domestic reduction of at least 55% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.

The European Council thus endorsed the Commission’s proposal in its 2030 Climate Target Plan Communication for an EU-wide, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030 compared to 1990 of at least 55% including emissions and removals.… Read the rest

EU Farm to Fork Strategy: How reasonable is the turmoil predicted by USDA?

We are pleased to welcome this guest post by Dr Yelto Zimmer, who is the coordinator of the agri benchmark Cash Crop Network at the Thünen Institute, Germany. Comments can be emailed directly to yelto.zimmer@agribenchmark.net.

The US agricultural ministry (USDA) recently published a report on the likely consequences if the EU Commission’s Farm to Fork (F2F) Communication were to be put in place. In this paper, the Commission proposes a set of measures that are supposed to lead to lower greenhouse gas emission in European agriculture and improve the overall environmental and public health performance of the sector.

Even in the modest USDA scenario, the projected outcome from F2F would be substantial turmoil of EU agriculture and even some significant changes in global agriculture.… Read the rest

Commission’s 2030 Climate Target Plan proposes radical changes in the rules governing agricultural and land GHG emissions

In my post in March 2020 on EU climate policy and agriculture, I highlighted the limited expectation among Member States in reporting their projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the European Environment Agency (EEA) to make significant reductions in agricultural emissions by 2030.

Given the greater climate ambition set out in the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy, I argued that, to properly incentivise, motivate and track progress in the farming sector, a focus on agricultural emissions alone is misleading and should be supplemented by also considering changes in land use emissions and removals that are under the control of farmers.… Read the rest

CAP decisions make slow progress towards the green transition: I Definitions

Last week both the AGRIFISH Council and the European Parliament agreed their negotiating mandates to enter the final stage of the approval process for the framework of the future CAP, thus opening the way for the trilogue process with the Commission to reach final agreement on the CAP legislation in the early part of next year.

Agreeing these positions was not without drama in either the Council or Parliament. The Council press statement announcing that its negotiating position had been agreed was issued at 04.43 on Wednesday morning 21 October 2020 after an extra night of negotiations following its two-day meeting.… Read the rest

Agriculture in the European Green Deal: From Ambition to Action

Today I had the pleasure of contributing to a panel discussion on the European Green Deal at the annual DG AGRI workshop on the medium-term outlook for EU agricultural markets, income and environment. This post consists of a slightly extended version of my remarks.

The European Green Deal is a growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a prosperous, fair, competitive and resource-efficient economy, with no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, zero pollution and a decoupling of economic growth from resource use. It is also a response to urgent challenges.

Despite progress in some areas, many trends in the farm and food sectors are going in the wrong direction.… Read the rest