Last week, the trilogue negotiations reached the finishing line of the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), that will remain in force until 2027 (entry into force in 2023). Early next year, National Strategic Plans will be approved, closing the curtain on the reform process.
Representatives from the main European institutions, the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council discussed their respective positions on the regulatory texts for the next Common Agricultural Policy. Unfortunately, the outccome is inconsistent with the EU Commission’s Green Deal strategies (Farm2Fork and Biodiversity) and it jeopardizes the environmental and ecological transition, does not favor producers of “good, clean and fair” food, and does not protect the health of citizens.
“The Slow Food movement considers the outcome of these trilogues a lost occasion to deliver a real transition towards a sustainable food system. While ideas and society advance towards increased sustainability and the respect for environment, this historic policy has not been able to advance and will continue to subsidize an industrial and unsustainable farming mode”, comments Francesco Sottile, agronomist and member of the Executive Committee of Slow Food Italy.
For the past years, Slow Food repeatedly asked the European Institutions to “deliver an ambitious, green and fair reform of the Common Agricultural Policy” as part of the larger ambition to transition to a greener European Union, in all sectors.
In collaboration with the Good Food Good Farming Campaign, Slow Food has delivered clear messages from civil society and farmers, showing discontent with the current CAP, and asking for better support for small scale agroecological farmers.
The result of the trilogue, which mostly reflects the position of the European Council, has brought about a CAP that still favors industrial polluting agriculture and monoculture at the expense of agro-biodiversity. Exactly the opposite of what is needed to face the current environmental and social crises.
Some “cosmetic” changes have been included in the reform, but the most critical points have remained unchanged, paving the way for another 7 years cycle of support to industrial agriculture through public spending (1/3 of the overall European budget).
Here are the main critical points:
- No requirement for the CAP to be aligned with the EU Green Deal in any binding way.
- Weak mandatory environment and biodiversity rules: no binding links to the EU Biodiversity Strategy target of at least 10% of landscape features on farms by 2030, are included in the CAP.
- No binding indications to transition away from pesticides and fertilizers: the CAP does not include any of the Farm to Fork strategy targets to reduce pesticides and fertilizers by 50% and reach 25% of organic farming. Voluntary environmental schemes like eco-schemes could end up funding very minimal changes.
- No obligation for Member States to set strong environmental targets at national level: the Commission will have very weak instruments to assess the consistency of the CAP national strategic plans with the European Green Deal.
- Late introduction of social conditionality: CAP payments will be linked to beneficiaries’ respect of their farm workers’ human and labor rights. This is the only potential positive outcome of the negotiations, as farm workers had never been featured in the CAP before now. However, it will be voluntary until 2023, and mandatory only starting from 2025. Now there is strong hope that regular checks and strong implementation will pave the way for better working conditions for farm workers across Europe.
- Unfair distribution of subsidies: in Europe, 80% of payments go to 20% of farms, hindering support for small-scale agroecological farmers, whose practice preserve biodiversity, soil health, and help the environment regenerate. Weak measures have been introduced to contrast this, confirming the status quo for this unfair system.
- CAP payments for intensive livestock farming are expected to continue (around €3bn per year go to livestock production): eco-schemes to improve animal welfare could potentially become subsidies for factory farms.
“The CAP, which accounts for one third of the European budget, is taking a separate way to the Green Deal, making it incredibly hard to reach its objectives”, concludes Sottile.
Today the AGRIFISH Council is gathering for a two-day meeting, where Member States are expected to endorse the CAP reform deal. Slow Food now places its hopes in EU Member States’ national strategic plans, where they have the possibility to show environmental ambiton.