While the debate on the next reform of EU farm policy is still in its infancy, a draft Commission document on the EU's next long-term budget paves the way for a "significant reduction in its overall share of the EU budget" to free up money for the bloc's other priorities.
The draft underlines that farmers cannot expect direct support conditions to remain unchanged and wants higher priority given to "non–compulsory environmental services, sustainable farming practices or improving the countryside in high nature value areas".
The main element of the income support provided by the EU budget - the current single payment scheme - could thus be maintained but primarily targeted at providing such "public goods" to create "real EU added value".
Earlier this summer, EU farm ministers debated the concept of making public goods the main focus of farm payments post-2013, but stressed that the term was still somewhat imprecise and needed clarifying (EurActiv 03/06/09).
Climate change pillar
The Commission document stresses that agriculture must do more to mitigate climate change and "will have to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to developing the use of land as a carbon sink".
EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel warned last month that European farmers must slash agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020, primarily by producing biomass and storing carbon in the soil (EurActiv 16/09/09).
One of the options put forward is to further intensify EU spending on climate change-related challenges by establishing a 'third pillar' of the CAP, specifically linked to the issue.
The current first pillar includes market support measures and direct subsidies to EU producers, while the second pillar covers rural development programmes.
Budget burden-sharing with member states
In order to free up money for other priorities, the EU executive also suggests that "a larger responsibility of current CAP spending could be assigned to the member states or direct aid could be co-financed by national contributions".
Earlier this summer, Jean-Luc Demarty, director-general at the Commission's agriculture and rural development department, said the EU could consider moving towards a single average level of payment for all EU member states. He said such direct income support from an EU "common base" would be complemented by member states, considering the salary structure of their countries' economies, in order to avoid distorting income levels (EurActiv 01/07/09).