European Union to finalise huge farm policy overhaul

European Union agriculture ministers said negotiators are close to a deal that aims to reform the bloc’s huge farming subsidy programme, protect small farms and bring agriculture in line with environmental goals.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will spend €387 billion – around a third of the EU’s 2021-2027 budget – on payments to farmers and support for rural development.

The new rules kick in from 2023.

Ministers from the 27 member states began two days of talks in Brussels yesterday, as negotiators from the European Parliament, member states and the European Commission try to end a nearly three-year struggle to reform the CAP.

The CAP reform aims to align agriculture with the EU’s green goals.

It wants to curb the 10% of EU greenhouse gases emitted from farming and reducing the pressure on natural habitats from intensive practices, including pesticide use and irrigation.

Negotiators are tussling over plans to spend between 20% and 30% of payments to farmers on schemes that protect the environment, such as organic farming or restoring wetlands to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

Environmental campaigners say the reforms lack firm targets – for example, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and would do little to reduce industrial farming.

The reforms will also attempt to halt the loss of Europe’s small farms, by stopping big businesses sucking up most of the money.

EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans has said 80% of CAP payments go to 20% of the beneficiaries, with big landowners and agro-industry firms profiting while family farms “get the shortend of the stick”.

Proposals under discussion could cap the amount of cash that each recipient gets, or require countries to redistribute part of their CAP funds to smaller farmers.

Negotiators this week agreed to scrap a contentious plan that would have banned food companies from comparing plant-based products to dairy in their marketing, for example by labelling almond-based drinks as creamy.

IFA President Tim Cullinan said that Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue can not sign up to the CAP reform that is emerging from Brussels.

Speaking after he met the Minister in Brussels, Tim Cullinan said that while nothing has been agreed yet, the talks are going backwards, not forward.

“The EU Agriculture Commissioner is trying to turn the CAP into a social welfare payment rather than supporting farmers for producing food,” the IFA President said.

“The Commissioner and the EU Parliament want to spread the money to keep a larger number of farmers in poverty. Only one third of farmers in Ireland are viable. If the EU get their way, we will have no viable farm families,” he said.

“Unfortunately, farming has become a minority sport in other member states, but it’s the backbone of the Irish economy. It is time for our Minister to call a halt to the nonsense,” he added.

This article was originally shared by RTE.