The start of Von der Leyen’s Commission Presidency

Ursula von der Leyen, then the German Minister for Defence, emerged as the surprise choice of the European Council leaders at their meeting on 21 June 2019 following their inability to agree on any of the Spitzenkandidaten. After an amazingly short period to read herself into the brief, she presented her Political Guidelines for the new Commission and summarised these in her oral presentation as part of her confirmation hearings in front of the European Parliament on July 16 2019.

Leaders of four of the Parliament’s political groups (the EPP, S&D, Renew Europe and the Greens, sometimes called the pro-EU parties to distinguish them from the more Eurosceptic parties both on the left and on the right – it is a handy tag though I am not comfortable using that description which is inherently exclusionary) had attempted to come together and, for the first time, to forge a common political platform and a common candidate for the Commission Presidency.

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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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Hogan addresses COMAGRI on environmental ambition in CAP

Commissioner Phil Hogan gave a presentation last week (Jan 24th) on the proposed environmental and climate architecture in the Commission’s legal proposal for the CAP post 2020 to the AGRI Committee of the European Parliament (the video session can be reviewed here). Today Monday (Jan 28th) the Commissioner gives a similar presentation to the AGRIFISH Council.

There are of course technical issues to be clarified around the Commission’s proposals. How will the proposed eco-schemes in Pillar 1 relate to agri-environment-climate measures (AECMs) in Pillar 2? How will Member States’ level of environmental and climate ambition in their CAP Strategic Plans be evaluated, and how will the level of effort across Member States be compared by the Commission when it approves these Plans?

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How to improve the CAP’s environmental performance post 2020

We are pleased to welcome this guest post by Faustine Bas-Defossez, IEEP Head of agriculture and land management program, and Kaley Hart, IEEP Senior fellow, who summarise the findings of a recent IEEP report CAP 2021-27: Proposals for increasing its environmental and climate ambition.

Although the CAP is the key EU funding mechanism to support environmental and climate action in the EU agricultural and forest sectors, efforts so far to green this strategic policy have not been sufficient to outweigh the pressures facing the farmed environment. As the EU just published its long term strategy for a climate neutral economy, emissions of greenhouse gasses from agriculture, including the livestock sector, are stubbornly high.

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The Article 92 commitment to increased ambition with regard to environmental- and climate-related objectives

Article 92 of the draft CAP Strategic Plan regulation is headed “Increased ambition with regard to environmental- and climate-related objectives”. In my previous discussion of the proposed green architecture in the CAP post 2020, I interpreted this Article as a commitment to no back-sliding on expenditure on agri-environment and climate objectives in the new CAP. For this reason, I took a more positive view of the potential of the new legislation to live up to the Commission’s declared ambition in this area than reflected in initial statements from environmental NGOs.

In the wake of further conversations with Birdlife Europe who have had the benefit of discussions with DG AGRI officials, I conclude that my initial interpretation of Article 92 as guaranteeing no back-sliding in expenditure was incorrect.

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The greening architecture in the new CAP

Environmental NGOs were harsh in their immediate criticism of the legislative proposals on the new CAP. Greepeace said that the EU farming plan “could spell disaster for the environment”. BirdLife Europe said that “The European Commission’s claim that the new proposal will deliver a higher environmental and climate ambition has fallen flat”, arguing that the new plan “does not guarantee any spending on biodiversity and grotesquely slashes funds ring-fenced for the environment across the board”.

Birdlife Europe has produced a detailed assessment of the Commission’s proposals in a handy tabular form, pointing out both weaknesses in the proposals themselves as well as omissions where the proposals could be strengtened (a summary of this assessment has appeared on this blog).

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How well are CAP direct payments linked to the supply of environmental public goods in agriculture?

We are pleased to bring you this guest post by Dr Alessandra Kirsch who recently completed her PhD thesis Politique agricole commune, aides directes à l’agriculture et environnement : Analyse en France, en Allemagne et au Royaume-Uni at the Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté. Dr Kirsch did her research at the CESAER, INRA DIJON, France, under the guidance of Professor Jean-Christophe Kroll and Dr Aurélie Trouvé. Her work was financed by the French Ministry of Agriculture.
The evolution of the Common Agricultural Policy shows an increasing emphasis on environmental objectives since their first appearance in the Maastricht treaty in 1992. The research presented here was stimulated by an important contradiction in public discourse.
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Karl Falkenberg’s reflections on the CAP

Karl who, you might well ask? Well, Mr Falkenberg has just published a reflections paper setting out a European vision for sustainability which goes into some detail about his views on the future of EU agricultural policy. Indeed, one-fifth of his relatively short document is devoted to this topic. You might well shrug that yet another viewpoint added to the hundreds of others (including those aired on this blog) discussing how Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy should be reformed after 2020 is hardly worth getting exercised about. But Mr Falkenberg’s views may deserve more attention than most.
After all, Mr Falkenberg spent more than six years as Director-General in DG ENVI after a distinguished career in the Commission civil service including a stint as Deputy Director-General in DG TRADE.
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Does farm size matter?

On October 20th next I will take part in a workshop organised by DG AGRI at the Milan EXPO on the subject “Structural realities in EU agriculture: Does farm size matter?” The aim of the workshop is to discuss the challenges and opportunities brought about by the structural change of the EU agricultural sector for a) the up- and downstream industries, b) EU rural areas and c) the sustainability of agricultural production in Europe.
The debate on farm size
There is a long history in Europe of interest in the structure of agricultural holdings. Many European countries have had land legislation in place with the objective of maximising the number of farm holdings or limiting the maximum farm size.
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Food Wise 2025 agri-food strategy launched in Ireland

Last week the Irish government launched the latest in a series of rolling ten-year strategies for the Irish agri-food sector called Food Wise 2025 (FW2025). The report follows in the footsteps of Agri Food 2010 (published in 2000), Agri Vision 2015, Food Harvest 2020 (full disclosure: I was a member of the committees that drafted those two reports) and now Food Wise 2025. In this post, I review the latest strategy and comment, in particular, on its environmental implications.
While Food Harvest 2020 (FH2020) contained a number of detailed sectoral targets, Food Wise 2025 avoids this level of quantification and contains just four headline aspirations:
• increase the value of agri food exports by 85% to €19 billion,
• increase value added to the sector by 70% to €13 billion,
• increase the value of primary production by 65% to €10 billion.
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