"Today, 80% of the CAP budget still goes to 20% of the farmers. We propose an innovative and integrated system which would make the allocation of resources fairer among farmers and member states," said spokesman Luis Capoulas Santos, as the S&D group unveiled its ambitions for EU farm reform.
'New start' for environment, cohesion
The European Parliament group argues that one of the EU's oldest policies is in need of comprehensive reform for two reasons.
Firstly, due to the emergence of new challenges such as climate change, water management, renewable energy, biodiversity and soil erosion. The group stresses the need to move towards more sustainable production models and suggests considering new "carbon credit" instruments for agriculture.
Secondly, because the principle of economic, social and territorial cohesion enshrined in the EU treaties "has never been included within the objectives of the CAP". The group notes that the largest farms, which are generally also the most competitive and efficient, "continue to receive the most support".
Putting an end to "unfair allocation of public resources (80% of the budget to 20% of the farmers)" would also give the CAP renewed legitimacy, the paper underlines.
As for the overall budget, Parliament's agriculture committee chair, Paolo De Castro (S&D), stressed that, as co-legislator with member states on the CAP, the European Parliament would ensure that "budget concerns do not prevail over the very important aims of this policy".
Because the primary function of agriculture is to feed populations, notes the study, the sector is more strategic and cannot be dealt with like other economic markets.
The new model
MEP Stéphane Le Foll, S&D group vice-president, said the new CAP should focus on three principles, "market regulation, compensating disadvantaged farmers and paying farmers for services to society".
The vision document calls for a 'New Deal' to be struck between the agriculture sector, the food industry, R&D and citizens, framed by "a single structured framework of European rules for allocating subsidies to farmers on the basis of criteria accepted by society and our international trading partners".
The model proposed by the Socialists and Democrats consists of three different types of payments to farmers.
A voluntary 'integrated contractual payment scheme' would grant payments to farmers in exchange for providing certain services, such as agricultural area maintenance or environmental services linked to biodiversity. The idea behind this is to decouple subsidies from land and ensure that subsidies go to farmers, who do not always own the land they cultivate.
A "regulation system for the management of risks and crises" would provide farmers with a safety net in the event of price volatility, drought, floods or spread of animal diseases, for example.
Safety tools suggested include intervention prices, storage, insurance, the creation of a public/private market stabilisation fund and contractualisation between farmers, agro-industry and the distribution chain.
An "aid scheme for structural measures" would be made up of whatever remains from the current second pillar. It would provide aid to help young farmers get started, vocational training, and investment in diversifying economic activity in rural areas, for example.