Who gets what in EU rural development funds

In December 2006 European Union heads of government agreed a new Financial Regulation, the legal text that sets out the rules for the EU budget. The new Financial Regulation contains new requirements on the public disclosure of end beneficiaries of EU funds. The first significant fruits of the new budget transparency law are due by 30 September 2008, the deadline set out in the implementing regulations relating to expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy. By this date each member state is obliged to provide a web-based search tool detailing all end beneficiaries of EU funds spent under rural development programmes between 1 January 2007 and 14 October 2007 (sometimes referred to as the second pillar of the CAP).… Read the rest

The great targeting debate

Czech agriculture minister Petr Gandalovic made an curious statement at the informal Agriculture Council meeting held earlier this week in the French Alps. Mr Gandalovic, who will assume the chairmanship of the Council under the Czech EU Presidency in the first half of 2009, told his colleagues:

“The more specific you make the policy, the more room you give to bureaucrats who make the decisions. Non-targeted payments give more power to farmers.”

In case it’s not clear, Mr Gandalovic was making the case against targeted payments. In doing so, perhaps inadvertently, he touched on a question that goes to the very heart of the debate about the future of the CAP: the extent to which the CAP’s 54 billion euros of annual public expenditure should be targeted on clearly defined objectives and measurable outcomes.… Read the rest

US farmers want out of conservation, environmentalists resist

The current high prices for arable crops mean that farmers in the US and Europe are reconsidering whether putting their land into government-financed conservation schemes is such a good idea financially. The EU is well on the way to releasing all its set aside land back into production, and in the US Congress is considering whether to allow farmers to leave long term conservation contracts without facing any penalties. … Read the rest

New CAP spending figures show raw deal for new member states

New official figures on how the the €53.5 billion of EU expenditure on the Common Agricultural Policy was distributed in 2007 show just how raw a deal the new member states are getting under Pillar One of the CAP, which still accounts for four fifths of the total CAP budget.

The figures are presented in a novel interactive data visualisation below (you may like to play around with the settings for Bubble Size, Label and Colour.… Read the rest

A CAP that Delivers for Biodiversity?

The vast majority of expenditure under the CAP continues to be directed to income support and is not explicitly targeted at responding to biodiversity, or other pressing environmental objectives. According to a new IEEP study for the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the distribution and allocation of CAP funding, and the uses to which it is put to, should be adjusted in order to help meet the EU’s international commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity.… Read the rest

Rethinking Less Favoured Areas

The Less Favoured Areas directive is one of the few examples of British influence on the design of the CAP. It was originally conceived as the Mountain Areas Directive with France pressing for a definition that would have excluded Britain’s hills and uplands. But the British emphasis on latitude rather than altitude won the day in 1975. Other member states saw the Less Favoured Areas directive as a good route to justify more cash for their farmers and by 1995 56 per cent of the utilised area of the EU was designated as less favoured. In Scotland, 85 per cent of the farmed area has LFA status.… Read the rest

Fischler speaks out

I have recently been working with others on an edited collection to be brought out from the Centre for Policy Studies in Brussels which re-visits the Fischler reforms of the CAP. The discussions held in relation to the book, which involved some people who knew Fischler’s work well, confirmed my view that he was someone who combined strategic vision with a wily use of tactics and an understanding of which political buttons to push when. Now the former farm supremo has provided a rare interview to Agra Focus. One of the intresting points he makes that two much is made of the difference between the two pillars: ‘They are man-made and we should not make an icon of these structures.’… Read the rest