Statement of scientists concerning the EU Common Agricultural Policy
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU) is still unable to solve the environmental and socio-economic challenges of EU agriculture. Agricultural ecosystems continue to deteriorate, biodiversity is declining and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture remain high. At the same time, farms face unresolved socio-economic challenges and rural areas have difficulties remaining viable. Yet the knowledge, data, tools and means to address sustainability challenges are easily available. There is a lack of an appropriate proposal of the CAP, as well as the setting of priorities and the necessary political will to improve them.
While the proposal of the European Commissions from 2018 did not address the main weaknesses of the CAP, the October 2020 amendments of the European Council and the European Parliament significantly weaken the environmental instruments of the CAP, while maintaining or even improving the unequal and counter-productive distribution of payments. The weakened CAP threatens the environment and the future of farmers and agriculture.
Scientific evidence shows that it is possible and effective to synchronise sustainable agriculture, multifunctional agroforestry and long-term prosperity with the EU´s climate and biodiversity goals. Interests of farmers and environmental protection can be mutually reinforced and achieved through the CAP, which is in line with the EU´s strategies - the European Green Deal, the Biodiversity Strategy, and concurrently it is in line with the Paris Agreement.
The proposed CAP after 2020 represents a common model of agriculture as opposed to a viable alternative of a responsible and sustainable model of agriculture, which ensures the viability of rural communities. The reality of larger acreage of agricultural land for the production of fuel and animal feed as for human consumption faces the story of supporting the importance of food production and the need to feed the world. Political positions also do not represent the interests and needs of most farmers who want to protect their environment in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of their own agriculture and rightly demand public policy support. For this purpose, the CAP should provide resources more effectively and focus on a fair transition to a sustainable future for agriculture.
The trialogues are the last opportunity to rethink the concept of the CAP after 2020 and to propose legal texts that allow rather than hinder environmental and social ambitions in line with the statement of the EU that the future CAP will be fairer and more ecological.
Using the time gained during the two-year transitional period, we strongly recommend that the Member States, the Council and the Parliament reconsider the current proposal. In particular, we call for:
- Maintaining Conditionality in line with the objectives set by the Commission and improving it by
a) extending the permanent protection of pastures outside the protected areas (Natura 2000) and
b) maintaining or restoring at least 10% of non-productive, semi-natural landscape features throughout the utilised agricultural area and not only on arable land;
- Purposefully binding budgets for agro-environmental and climate measures and enabling the Member States to increase their budgets above current levels;
- Ensuring at least 30% of the budget of Pillar 1 for ecological schemes and through the use of the current knowledge to ensure that ecological schemes were well-drafted (i.e. to include only effective biodiversity measures), monitored and reassessed to achieve measurable environmental impacts;
- Moving areas with natural constraints to the first Pillar or link them strictly to environmental objectives and the protection of agricultural areas with high nature value, instead of being unjustifiably listed as an environmental tool without unnecessary criteria;
a) purposeful binding of direct payments (in particular bound payments),
(b) an obstacle of Member States´ maximum investment in the environment, and
(c) a restriction on budget transfers to Pillar 2.
These restrictions prevent the ambitious Member States from investing in rural areas and public goods;
- Setting a clear objective for the reduction of bound payments (e.g. towards 5%) such as grants that are harmful to both markets and the environment;
- If direct payments remain a political priority and the proposed means of solving farmers´ problems will be greater justice among beneficiaries, then the Council and the Parliament should introduce a restriction and redistribution mechanisms obligatory for all Member States and lay down strict restriction rules;
- Ensuring the success of the new model by
a) linking strategic plans to the EU Green Deal,
b) maintaining annual reporting on performance indicators and
c) improving the integration of scientists and other experts into consultation processes
within Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS).
Science in all disciplines is available to address the issues of agricultural sustainability and improve the CAP. The call for better CAP was supported by more than 3,600 signatories. They underlined the feasibility of constructive changes and documented the readiness to help positively transform and secure the future of the CAP and EU agriculture (Pe’er et al. 2020).
Based on insufficient and inappropriate changes in the draft of the new CAP in recent months, 40 scientists from 13 EU Member States issued a statement, which also includes the Institute of Landscape Ecology of the SAS, and is available in full as a publication HERE.
Text: Peter Bezák, Institute of Landscape Ecology SAS
Foto: unsplash.com/tobias tullius