MEP: CAP is about farmers’ livelihood too, not only sustainability

Italian MEP Herbert Dorfmann addressing the plenary. [DIEFFEMBACQ-EP]

The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU’s massive farming subsidies programme, must look after the well-being of farmers as well, rather than focus mainly on environmental sustainability, centre-right MEP Herbert Dorfmann told EURACTIV.

The agriculture coordinator of the Parliament’s biggest political group – European People’s Party (EPP) – was commenting on a strong campaign launched by environmental associations to scrap the whole CAP reform proposal under discussion at the European Parliament this week.

“Environmental NGOs want the CAP to be only environmentally friendly, but it is mostly a social-economic EU programme,” he said.

On Monday (19 October), campaigners took part in a photo stunt outside the Parliament in protest against the alliance formed between the three largest political groups in the European Parliament – the Christian-Democrats (EPP), socialists (S&D) and liberals (Renew Europe) – to ensure that a set of compromise amendments would pass.

Despite some last-minute defections, the majority of the agreement held steadfast, as all the compromise amendments proposed by the three biggest political groups were voted through yesterday evening (20 October) in the first voting session.

Dorfmann said this “unexpected majority” was “in favour of what is ultimately a good compromise”, although not perfect.

“The work at the political level has borne fruit as it was very difficult to bring together positions initially at odds,” he added.

The news that all compromise amendments were voted through was met with dismay by NGOs and environmental campaigners, who still hope that MEPs will ultimately scrap the amended text in the final vote on Friday.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also stepped in complaining that European lawmakers are voting a CAP reform which, is completely ignoring climate and biodiversity.

The work is not over, Dorfmann cautioned, as many crucial amendments still need to be voted on between now and Friday.

He mentioned the amendments that will provide a more ambitious capping for direct payments and the one the controversial issue of external convergence.

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Farm to Fork in the CAP

MEPs voted in favour of aligning the CAP with the Paris Agreement, while simultaneously rejecting the attempt by the Greens to enshrine all the sustainable targets set in the EU’s new food policy, the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, in the EU farming subsidies.

Dorfmann said the European Parliament’s legislative service had advised lawmakers against the introduction of any reference to the F2F in the CAP reform, as the Commission’s communication is not currently legally binding.

“We deserve respect as co-legislators,” said Dorfmann, pointing the finger at the Commission, which according to the Italian MEP is acting as if the F2F was already law, while it still needs to be discussed by both Parliament and the Council.

However, Green MEP Bas Eickhout, who filed amendment 1399, said there was no legal issue in this regard. “You can enshrine the targets you want at a political level, as it’s up to lawmakers to set the conditions they want,” he told EURACTIV before the vote.

Council’s stance not ideal

Dorfmann was quite pessimistic about the late-night deal clinched by the farm ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (21 October), as the Council’s position seems less ambitious than the one being discussed by the Parliament.

According to him, it is ridiculous that the Council should think we can really go toward more sustainable agriculture with only 20% of the agricultural budget devoted to the eco-scheme, the new system conceived to deliver the environmental goals in the CAP.

“After what has happened in the Parliament in recent months, we are not willing to vote on something like this,” he warned, unless the Council makes an important shift towards the Parliament’s position.

EU farming subsidies programme is two steps closer to long-awaited reform

EU farm ministers clinched an early-morning deal on the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), touted as ‘a paradigm shift in European food policy’, on Wednesday (21 October). At the same time, the European Parliament’s first voting session on the same matter saw a compromise between three biggest political groups.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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