The European Parliament Agriculture Committee has now officially published draft reports on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. These are reports produced by rapporteurs who were given the job of providing an initial response from the European Parliament to the European Commission’s CAP reform proposals (published last October). These draft texts will be discussed by the Committee and amendments will be lodged by 9/10 July. A provisional COMAGRI vote on the CAP reports is due to take place in Nov, with a final vote taking place once the final figures on the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) have (hopefully) been hammered out by EU heads of state at the December Council.
The view of the Parliament matters because the process now takes place under a co-decision procedure and so the content of these reports gives an indication of the areas of disagreement and future debate.
Some key points on direct payments:
- Permanent grassland: "herbaceous" has been deleted
- Active farmer: The proposed income test has been deleted, but an additional test of "engaging in agricultural production activity" in 2011 has been introduced along with the idea of a negative list of people/legal entities who are considered not farmers unless they can prove that they meet criteria
- Capping – made more stringent with progressive reduction up from 70% to 80% for payment over 250,000 EUR
- Basic entitlements: the base year for entitlements now proposed to be 2009-2011; proposed that the jump to area payments in year 1 will involve 20% area payment rather than 40%
- Greening – Proposed that farmers automatically entitled to greening payment when they participate in agri-environment schemes or are enrolled in national or regional environment certification schemes.
- Crop diversification - Proposed that farms of 5-20 ha only have to grow 2 crops, 1 can be 90% of farm. Farms of more than 20 ha have to grow 3 crops, but 2 crops can cover 95%.
- Permanent Pasture - Distinction made between "perm grassland" and "historic pastures".
- Ecological Focus Areas – Proposed that farms of more than 20ha can include land planted with nitrogen fixing crops. 7% reduced to 5% in cases where there are joint undertakings from farmers for green corridors.
For clarity, these are proposals in a draft document; they do not represent a definite direction of travel because the report will be subject to amendments and once adopted will represent the Parliament’s position in an ongoing negotiation. They do, however, point to the direction of travel and offer some reassurance on issues that have been of concern in Scotland. The removal of ‘herbaceous’ from the definition of permanent pasture will reassure many concerned about the status of heather grazing and the removal of the income test in the definition of an active farmer will also potentially take away an unnecessarily bureaucratic provision. The potential to qualify for greening (on the land concerned) if a farmer is in either an agri-environment scheme or environmental certification schemes will also potentially offer more routes to delivering sensible greening. But, although refined, there is no real flexibility offered on the three core greening measures.