Slow Food to the EU: let this CAP be a transition to sustainable food and farming

Brussels

Our recommendations for a Common Agricultural Policy that is good for people and planet

On June 1st the European Commission unveiled the legislative proposal for the new Common Agricultural Policy, which is set to shape Europe’s agricultural system from 2021 to 2027. EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, called the policy proposal “ambitious, balanced and realistic”, but Slow Food’s preliminary review of the text offers a less complimentary interpretation. The new legislative proposal lacks the ambition to lead the way to a real transition towards sustainable food systems and delegates the responsibility of deciding the future of European farming to Member States.

Slow Food’s analysis identifies key areas of concern and addresses questions directly to Commissioner Hogan to foster a constructive debate and improve the legislative proposal. The aim of the review is to trigger a debate among legislators, namely the European Parliament and the Council, that will have the final wording on the future CAP, as well as receive clarification on behalf of the European Commission.

A key part of the proposed CAP reform is a move towards a results-based delivery model: the one-size-fits-all approach will be replaced by a supposedly “more flexible system, with greater freedom for EU countries to decide how best to meet the common objectives”. A model based on results and adapted to national needs is good in theory. However, it is doubtful whether this new and untested delivery model will be able to deliver on the new CAP objectives, particularly when the proposal doesn’t offer a clear overall vision for the future of food systems in Europe and when the accountability system is extremely weak.

In the newly proposed plan, Member States will have many more responsibilities, starting with defining what constitutes a ‘small’, “genuine” or ‘young’ farmer. This will have an impact on who is then considered eligible to receive CAP funds and will therefore rest entirely on the specific definition given by each individual country. Will the new laws be able to ensure a consistent equality between farmers across the EU or will it exacerbate existing differences?

According to the new rules, Member States will each be tasked with setting their own social and environmental ambitions, meaning that they will determine the priorities of the interventions of their CAP strategic plans based on the needs assessment they will perform. Isn’t it too risky for a policy with a potential budget of over 300 billion to rely on the goodwill of Member States to deliver the level of social and environmental ambition needed?

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY OR THE BEGINNING OF A TRANSITION?

“I consider that my specific duty is to give our farmers certainty, stability and predictability that they both deserve and need”, said Commissioner Phil Hogan as he presented the new legislative. However, given the problematic nature of the current proposal, it is doubtful whether the CAP, as it stands, will be able to give farmers the “certainty, stability and predictability” that they need.

Why hasn’t the European Commission been brave enough to make Europe a real game-changer in the transition towards diversified agroecological food systems? Slow Food believes that a Common Food Policy is needed to go beyond the limitations of the current CAP and to start a real transition towards sustainable food and farming policies, where the focus is on agroecological production. If we still believe in the EU project, this is a necessity. The CAP strategic plans can be a first necessary, but not sufficient, step towards this transition.

To achieve a more efficient and effective policy that meets society’s requirements for a more sustainable food system, the new CAP framework needs:

  • to pursue economic, social, ecological, health, ethical and resilience objectives simultaneously.
  • a payment system geared towards delivering public goods, by organising the proposed CAP tools (CAP strategic plans, direct payments, rural development interventions, etc.) around these objectives and ensuring coherence with other food-related policies.

The final wording of the future CAP laws will be co-decided by the Parliament and the Council. Will they have the courage that the European Commission has so far lacked?

Click to read Slow Food’s full review on the CAP legislative proposal and our policy briefing on “Transitioning towards sustainable food systems in Europe

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