Analyses of the contents of the Commission’s Health Check Communication have heightened in recent days with the content of the leaked draft document reported in the agriculture press. Of particular interest from an environmental perspective, is the resurgence of the little applied Article 69. This article is housed within the current CAP legislation, Regulation 1782/2003, and allows a Member State to skim off up to ten per cent of the monies to be directed at one sector and provide an additional payment that is targeted at the ‘protection or enhancement of the environment’, or for ‘improving the quality and marketing of agricultural products’.
Eight Member States currently make use of this option, although there is little information on the exact objectives surrounding implementation. A good example is Scotland, where Article 69 provides around £20m of funding per year for the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme. The option was considered by Defra in England, but dropped when the final decisions were taken on the implementation of the last CAP reform.
The resurgent interest in Article 69 is welcome for the environment, and offers a way to protect the most vulnerable production sectors, many of which play an important role in maintaining high nature value farmed landscapes. This is particularly true in an period of high cereal prices when feed for more marginal livestock producers, often located in the more remote areas of the EU, has become increasingly expensive. The option allows for a redistribution of funding to those sectors that genuinely need it.
So long as it is targeted at specific sectors and production systems, it should not be seen as another way to simply top up farmers’ incomes. Crucially, its implementation needs to be accompanied by some sort of environmental conditionality to ensure that the payment delivers real results for the environment. The cross compliance standards may be too imprecise to push for the required style of management. In this way, Article 69 offers an opportunity to further ‘green’ Pillar I of the CAP, and may free up funding within Pillar II for well designed and targeted agri-environment schemes, which could operate alongside Article 69 implementation.
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