Europe needs a new CAP!
Download the "Proposal for a new EU Common Agricultural Policy", published by BirdLife International, EEB, the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, IFOAM and WWF, ahead of the current reform debate here.
Read more on our vision here.
Despite subsequent rounds of reform, the CAP remains dysfunctional and wasteful. While important environmental schemes are starved of funds, most money is still channelled into unjust forms of income support that have scant relation to the public goods delivered by farmers to society.
The EU budget review is a unique opportunity to develop and shape a long-term vision for all EU Policy, in particular, to put the principle of “public money for public goods” at its heart. As the CAP still accounts for 40% of the EU budget, any debate about the future of the budget must also make a decision about the kind of CAP the EU needs.
Although most current CAP spending is untargeted and unfair, the CAP remains the EU’s main tool for dealing with land use issues. This is a key strategic concern whose importance will only increase in the coming years when scarce resources become even scarcer and the effects of climate change start to kick in. We believe that there is a need for an EU-wide policy targeting sustainable land management and food production and rural development.
Fundamental reform is therefore needed if the CAP is to be made fit to tackle the many challenges facing the EU (from massive biodiversity declines to degraded water and soil quality) and to ensure taxpayers’ money is used efficiently and in the areas where it is most needed.
For too long the CAP has been tinkered with whilst dodging the real questions: what is the policy for and what are the most rational tools for pursuing its objectives? It is clear that no credible modernization of the EU budget is possible without a thorough reform of the CAP but there is a risk that the debate could be reduced to a ‘numbers game’ where Member States battle to protect vested interests and fail to see the bigger picture.
Sustainable use of natural resources, and maintaining healthy and well-functioning ecosystems is not just about protecting the environment for its own sake, it is also vital for long-term European competitiveness and food security. Member States must work together to ensure the right finances and policy structure is in place to facilitate a new era of sustainable European land management.
AGRICULTURE IN EUROPE -- MUCH MORE THAN FOOD PRODUCTION
The way our land is managed affects everybody. Farming of course provides us with food but at the same time it produces public goods such as wildlife, beautiful landscapes, water management and soils. Equally, due to its massive land coverage and the impacts of farming practices, agriculture affects the natural world and is considered to be the most important factor driving the loss of biodiversity in the countryside. Populations of farmland birds in Europe, which indicate the health of the ecosystem as a whole, have declined by almost 50% in the past 25 years. The continuing loss of habitats and insensitive farming practices mean the challenges facing wildlife are increasing, a situation which can only worsen in the context of climate change.
WHY THE CAP DOESN’T FIT
The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has encouraged over the past 50 years intensive commercial production leading to a dramatic decline of farmland biodiversity and environmental health in general. While the 2003 CAP reform has mostly removed the artificial incentives to intensify by “decoupling” farm subsidies from production, the CAP still fails to address the many challenges agriculture and land management face in the 21st century: continuing biodiversity decline, water pollution and unsustainable abstraction, soil degradation, accelerating climate change and ever-increasing demand for food and energy. Most current spending goes on untargeted income support that is not linked to any specific delivery of public goods while very little money goes to reward farmers for good land stewardship.
OUR VISION FOR A NEW CAP
BirdLife International believes that the future of the CAP must be based on the principle of paying farmers and land managers to deliver the public benefits that EU citizens expect and need from farming. A failure to bring concrete and tangible improvements to the CAP would inevitably further undermine the credibility and legitimacy of this policy in the context of the ongoing EU budget review.
BirdLife International’s vision for the future of the CAP is to use this policy to support sustainable agriculture and rural communities to meet the EU’s environmental and social goals and commitments, thus also helping to ensure long term food security. While the CAP requires a complete overhaul, which will only be possible in 2013, certain short term improvements must be put in place now:
- Ensure a significant increase in funding for rural development programmes
- Ensure cross compliance delivers its current objectives and is strengthened, not weakened
- Compensate for the abolishment of set aside with meaningful environmental measure
- Use new funding mechanisms to support High Nature Value farming systems
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