The influential Land Use Policy Group will be launching their vision for the future of the CAP after 2013 in Brussels on March 30th. This will be an important event in the long-term effort to clarify thinking about future policy so that it delivers benefits to the environment and rural communities.
The Group comprises representatives from the UK statutory conservation, countryside and environment agencies and aims to advise on policy matters of common concern related to agriculture, woodlands and other rural land uses. It wants to progressively transform the CAP so that it is focused more clearly on rewarding the environmental services arising from land management where the market fails to do so. These rewards should reflect the services provided and the costs incurred. The new policy should in the Group’s view:
• Have a clear role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, addressing water and biodiversity management and ensuring that farming and forestry have the capacity to deliver environmental security and sustainable production in the long term.
• Promote the sustainable use of the natural resources on which all production depends through the use of good practice guidance together with agreed environmental standards, enforced by risk-based regulation which is binding on all land managers.
• Reward the positive management of existing biodiversity, cultural landscapes, carbon and water resources whilst securing improvements in the environmental quality of all rural land.
• Help reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture and forestry, by targeting capital investment on environmentally beneficial technology and infrastructure.
• Integrate sustainable land management with economic and social policy in order to encourage integrated land use that enables rural communities to benefit from the economic potential of their environment.
• Ensure that progress towards environmental, social and economic objectives is monitored, evaluated and regularly reported on.
The group admits that,
‘Transforming the CAP in this way will take time. Any income support retained in the short term should be targeted, with conditions, on those farming systems making the greatest contribution to the management of environmental services for the benefit of society. Research and development should be focused on the challenge of enhancing long-term productivity in ways that reduce environmental impacts and help adapt to climate change.’
The Group states, ‘We see our proposals as providing a sustainable justification for a “new contract” between predominantly urban taxpayers and those who manage rural land.’ It will be interesting to learn more about the proposals when they become available. The principles are good ones, but to an extent the devil is in detail.
There is also the political problem of overcoming the resurgence of support for productionist solutions, the argument being advanced that protecting the environment is a luxury good that can be set aside in a recession. As evidence accumulates about the effects of climate change and their possible acceleration, future agriculture and rural policy must embed measures to mitigate climate change as a key priority.