Political hotspot June 2021 newsletter

On 25-26 May the “jumbo” trilogues took place during which negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council were expected to seal the deal on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform. However, after four days of unconducive discussions, negotiations broke down on 28 May.

What went down?

On day 1 of the trilogues, the European Commission presented a list of seven outstanding issues (including ‘green architecture’ and the ring-fencing for the eco-schemes in the first pillar (direct payments), social conditionality, or coupled payments) in an attempt to break the deadlock and close the deal on the future CAP. Following two days of intense talks, the Portuguese Presidency of the Council came back with a proposal going back on their previous demands and opening up previously closed issues.

What went wrong?

One of the breaking points of the negotiations was ring-fencing support for eco-schemes. Though the Council seemingly agreed to up its mandate voted in October (20% of first pillar funds ring-fenced for eco-schemes) to meet the Parliament’s own mandate (30%, which was also the Commission’s proposal) halfway at 25% for the whole duration of the CAP, the Portuguese minister Maria do Céu Antunes actually offered a ‘floor’ of only 18% annual spend across the whole programming period (instead of the two-year learning period agreed during the last trilogues), with full flexibility to transfer unused funds above the floor to other payments. This would even further downgrade the – already weak – Council mandate. On day 4, the Parliament sent back a counter-proposal, raising the ‘floor’ for ring-fencing eco-schemes to 22% in 2023 and 23% in 2024, but Agriculture Ministers rejected any further negotiations and let their “take it or leave it” ultimatum hanging in the air.

What is at stake for organic farmers?

With this ultimatum, the Council ignores citizens’ call to increase sustainability or add basic safeguards and prevents any meaningful change for climate and biodiversity, leaving alignment of the CAP to the European Green Deal still open. The European Parliament had added to the list of logjam issues the need for Member States to align mid-way their strategic plans’ trajectories with the Green Deal’s various targets, including organic. However, this was rejected by the Council.

Because of the current status quo on the CAP strategic plans, organic farming is under pressure in many Member States where organic farmers face income loss compared to conventional farmers. In France, for instance, FNAB, the French organic farming organisation, points out that organic farmers could lose up to 66% of financial support for environmental services, as the government is considering replacing organic farming maintenance with an eco-scheme with much lower payments rates, and to which farmers engaged in the much weaker ‘high value environmental’ standard would also qualify. In the next CAP, current payments for “greening” and dedicated support for organic farming maintenance, respectively €80 and €122 per hectare per year, would be replaced by a single payment through an eco-scheme of €70 per hectare per year. A loss 13 times heavier than for conventional farmers, who would see their aid reduced by only €10, from €80 to €70 per hectare per year. Read FNAB’s article for more insights.

The political process to deliver on the ambitious targets of the Green Deal is difficult at the EU level, but there are clear opportunities at the Member State level to act. To reach 25% organic land by 2030, Member States must put organic targets into planning, measures, and figures on the ground.

IFOAM Organics Europe’s position

“The Parliament is right to refuse a bad deal with the Council. European citizens expect the CAP to deliver more for the environment and we clearly need more ambition on eco-schemes, ringfencing and organic farming” says our President Jan Plagge. The failure of the CAP negotiations shows Agriculture Ministers’ lack of ambition in delivering a greener and fairer CAP. To be able to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies, we need a CAP that is in line with the objectives of the EU Green Deal, thus fit for future. Co-legislators must ensure CAP strategic plans regulation will mention the need for Member States to develop and adequately support organic farming.

Further negotiations will resume on 24-25 June, shortly before the end of the Portuguese Presidency. The link between the CAP and the Green Deal (and the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity targets) will once again be the toughest point of discussions. We will update our members about these important CAP negotiations.

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