Delivering environmental benefits through agri-environment schemes

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The ‘big idea’ in the Commission’s legislative proposals for the reform of the CAP post-2013 is greening, to be implemented by requiring all farmers in receipt of the basic payment to adopt three measures – crop diversification, ecological focus areas and the maintenance of permanent pasture – as appropriate. While there is a broad acceptance that the CAP should focus more on environmental objectives, there is still huge debate on the size of this shift and on the efficacy and relevance of the Commission’s proposals.
One of the main criticisms from member states has been the inflexibility of the proposals which are designed in a ‘one size fits all’ manner (for example, see the recent speech by UK Minister Caroline Spelman on the Commission’s greening proposals).… Read the rest

The cost of flat-rate agri-environmental measures

The Commission’s proposals to require shallow, one-size-fits-all, green measures across the EU as a whole in return for a green payment in Pillar 1 have been widely criticised as overly prescriptive, yielding limited environmental benefits (‘greenwash’), administratively complicated for member states and unnecessarily costly in terms of the trade-off with food production.

I reviewed these criticisms in a recent note for the European Parliament’s COMAGRI (link to appear when the note is published shortly). In the note I favoured a continuation of the past CAP reform trajectory in which a larger share of the CAP budget would be shifted to Pillar 2 in order to allow more ambitious and targeted agri-environmental measures (AEM).… Read the rest

What is the likely cost of greening Pillar 1?

The Commission’s proposals for the design of direct payments after 2013 include a greening component which, according to the draft legislative proposal (yet to be released on 12 October next and thus subject to change) will be mandatory for farmers in receipt of the basic income payment – thus becoming what I called in an earlier post a form of super-cross-conditionality.

In the impact assessment to be released with the legislative proposal the Commission has made some estimates of the cost of implementing these green measures. In this post, I examine these costs using information in the draft version of the impact assessment (Annex 12 Impact of Scenarios on the Distribution of Direct Payments and Farm Income).… Read the rest

CAP Reform Conversations: Ariel Brunner, BirdLife International

In the second in a series of in-depth conversations with leading figures in the debate on the future of the European Union’s common agricultural policy, Jack Thurston speaks with Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at BirdLife International.

BirdLife International is “a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. BirdLife Partners operate in over one hundred countries and territories worldwide.”

Anyone who has been in and around Brussels policy circles over the past few years will know that Ariel Brunner is among the most knowledgeable and persuasive advocates for radical reform of the CAP.… Read the rest

Le Monde debates the CAP

Last Friday, Le Monde, the leading French daily newspaper, devoted a double-page spread on its comment pages to the common agricultural policy. Along with José Bové, Michiel A. Keyzer and Jean-Christophe Bureau I was invited to contribute an article to the debate. You can read it in French on the Le Monde website. I’ve posted an English version below.

Farming should protect Europe’s environmental resources not use them up

In 2009, farm incomes fell across the whole of the EU, not least in France. Dairy farms have been hardest hit with average prices down twenty per cent. This is despite the EU spending 55 billion euro on the common agricultural policy, one of whose aims is to ensure farmers a fair standard of living.… Read the rest

German call for reform of CAP payments

The German Council for Sustainable Development has just published a report highlighting the environmental damage caused by intensive agriculture and calling for a reform of the CAP direct payments system. It proposes a three-fold structure of payments: an environmental basic payment, a series of targeted agri-environmental payments for farmers who accept higher obligations, and a series of payments for high nature-value areas where the continuation of agricultural production is desirable but threatened on economic grounds.

For the environmental basic payment, it suggests that eligibility would be conditional on farmers turning over at least 10% of their area to environmentally-friendly husbandry with a view to maintaining a high level of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape throughout the EU.… Read the rest

The job nobody wanted

Over at the excellent farmpolicy.com Roger Waite, editor of Agra Facts, has posted a thorough account of the appointment of the new EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos. He says that while Romania had sought the powerful position, it was really a case of appointment by default:

I tend to feel that Barroso was left with no other option, as no one was willing to put forward a good candidate – and that he was the only suitable candidate from among the nominees.

Read the rest

A new decade, a new CAP

Five leading European farming and environmental NGOs, who between them boast several million members, have jointly published a blueprint for a new Common Agricultural Policy. In an unusual and very modern step, they have published a draft proposal and opened it for consultation. They will produce a final version in 2010. The proposal, which runs to 28 pages, is for a radical reorientation of the CAP away from a productivist and income support model towards a ‘public money for public goods’ ethos.… Read the rest

New book reveals extent of 'box shifting'

When the negotiators in the Uruguay Round of the GATT introduced the concept of the ‘green box’ – farm support measures that are minimally or non-trade distorting and therefore exempt from any limits – few would have foreseen that within 15 years, the bulk of farm support in the developed world would be in the green box. A new book “Agricultural Subsidies in the WTO Green Box: Ensuring Coherence with Sustainable Development Goals”, published by Cambridge University Press, shows the extent to which farm support has been shifted out of more traditional, trade distorting measures and into the green box. It addresses the vexed question of whether green box supports are really as trade-neutral and environmentally beneficial as they are claimed to be.… Read the rest