CAP Tracker: From planning to planting

Here, EURACTIV's agrifood team keeps you up to speed with all of the latest on the CAP national strategic plans. [EURACTIV]

This year is expected to bring a major agricultural milestone for the next round of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): the adoption of the first CAP national strategic plans.

Through these plans, member states will set out an individualised action plan of how they intend to meet the nine objectives of the new CAP reform. 

But the Ukraine war has meant these plans have had to be overhauled since they were submitted to the European Commission for approval back at the beginning of the year.

However, after suffering a number of setbacks, the Commissioner confirmed that the Commission will launch the official approval process for five member states, including Portugal, Poland, Spain, Denmark, and France, with more on their way.

This process is expected to take approximately 6 weeks, he said, meaning the first adoption decisions will fall in early September.You can find a link to the plan here.

Here, EURACTIV’s agrifood team keeps you up to speed with all of the latest on these plans.

European Commission set to approve first set of plans. EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski announced on Twitter on  29 August that the first package of CAP strategic plans for several countries will be adopted the first week of September.

EU adopts further relaxation of environmental measures to increase cereal production: The European Commission announced on Wednesday (27 July) that derogations from key environmental requirements in the EU’s farming subsidy programme will be extended into 2023 to maximise the EU’s cereal production capacity. Learn more.

Food security top of Czech Presidency agrifood priorities: Food security will be the key shaping force of the agrifood priorities of the incoming Czech Presidency, featuring on the agenda of all meetings of EU agriculture ministers over the next six months. More details here.

New regulation. The Commission adopted a regulation on Monday (12 September) providing a common framework for monitoring and evaluating the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) achievements, which also sets out clear rules on the detailed information that member states will need to collect so they can develop the appropriate IT tools and collection systems before the start of the new CAP on 1 January 2023. You can find more info here.

Funding applications kicked off. Since 3 November, Austrian farmers can apply for some of the funds inside the new CAP. This includes the so-called agri-fuel rebate, a crisis measure the ministry adopted to help alleviate the burden of high input costs in the face of the Ukraine war, as well as tax reductions for the costs of vehicles and machines used for farming purposes. The step “comes as an important relief for family farms in times of extremely high input costs,” agriculture minister Norbert Totschnig said. 

Commission’s stamp of approval. Austria’s was among a second batch of National Strategic Plans approved by the European Commission, along with Luxembourg, on 13 September. With the plan, which comprises €8.8 billion in total, “we are building on previous efforts and tested programmes to give our family farms prospects for the future, to strengthen rural areas and to expand our pioneering role in the field of resource, environmental and climate protection,” the country’s agriculture minister, Norbert Totschnig. He also stressed that a comparatively high amount of  €570 million would be spent on funding voluntary environmental measures through the eco-schemes and agri-environmental measures.

Regions approve. In a meeting with federal minister Totschnig on 29 September, representatives of the Austrian regions also welcomed the approval of the CAP plan. Regional minister Christian Gantner, who chaired the conference, called the plan a “programme for the future of our farmers,” adding it would secure the future prospects of family farms while consolidating Austria’s “leading role in terms of resource, environmental, and climate protection.” Toschnig, meanwhile, thanked the regions for the efficient cooperation on the plan and stressed all was being done to make sure the measures could enter into force from January 2023 on.

Small and medium-sized companies will benefit more: At the state agricultural consultants’ conference on Friday, July 1, in Braz, the responsible government members of the federal states discussed the current situation in domestic agriculture together with Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig. The Provincial Councillor Christian Gantner emphasised that among the top beneficiaries of CAP funding will be “extensive suckler cow farms, diversified arable and special crop farms as well as farms with a high standard of animal welfare and high alpine grazing rates.” The support in the form of direct payments will continue, with the extension of rural development and the agri-environmental program. The budget will be increased by 25 %. Investments in organic farming and particularly animal welfare-friendly stables are also being expanded, as well as the compensatory allowance for mountain farming and in the disadvantaged area.

EU Commission proposes the use of fallow land for 2023 as well: Minister of Agriculture Norbert Totschnig welcomed the step by the EU Commission to continue using fallow land for agricultural production in 2023 – Austria has officially approved it. The national implementation of this exception is now being prepared in order to give farmers planning security as soon as possible. Biodiversity areas of the agri-environmental program ( ÖPUL) are not affected. In addition, due to the challenging situation, the EU Commission has also announced that the new, mandatory crop rotation requirement for 2023 will be postponed by one year.

Campaigners not pleased. Meanwhile, environmental campaigners were far from happy about Vienna’s decision to allow production on fallow land. The organisation Umweltdachverband called the step a “bitter setback for biodiversity” in a statement published on 26 July, the organisation’s manager, Gerald Pfiffinger, adding he was “appaled.” Meanwhile, Franz Essl, professor for ecology and member of the leadership board of the Austrian Biodiversity Council (ÖBDR), said using fallows for production “is like scoring an own goal: it destroy animals’ habitats and decimates key pollinators” that are in turn needed for cultivating many fruits and vegetables.

You can also find a detailed overview of how Austria is advancing with its plan here. More details on the content of the plan (in German) can be found here.

Two for the price of one: Belgium is the only country to submit two plans; one for the Belgian area of Flanders, and one for Wallonie, adding an extra layer of complexity for the future plans for the Belgian agricultural sector, as was highlighted by a representative recently during a meeting of EU agriculture ministers. According to the representative, Belgium is “doing everything in [its] power to submit the second version of the plans so that we can move to adopt at the end of this year at the latest”. Meanwhile, intensive communication with farmers is planned “as soon as our plans have been stabilised” and that will continue in autumn, he said, stressing the need to ensure that the farmers get information quickly so that they can plan their next production. The plans are also set to undergo a dramatic change in light of the Ukraine war, the representative said, stressing the need for the plans to meet the new challenges this presents for the EU’s energy, sovereignty and food security.

Commission recommendations: The Commission has recommended that Belgium focuses on addressing the decline of income and the modernisation of the sector, including digitalisation, reducing emissions from the livestock sector, adapting agriculture to climate change, which it notes could jeopardise the sector, and promote organic farming more strongly, especially in the Flanders region. Belgium must also work on encouraging more young people, including women, to move into farming and fully implement integrated pest management.

Almost there: “The main goal of our work on the Strategic Plan was to have competitive agricultural producers, as well as to direct the funds under the first and second pillars to real farmers,” said the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Momchil Nekov during a round table “Update on the progress of the negotiations and the finalisation of the Strategic Plan under the CAP for the period 2023-2027” on July 26. According to him, already about 40% of the Commission’s comments were discussed within the negotiation process. He commented that it is of great importance at the moment to have a working parliament in order to make legislative amendments in order to provide a legal basis for disbursement of funds under the Strategic Plan, as well as to adopt the new Act on branch organisations.

Main issues: The conditions for the new Green Architecture are one of the biggest challenges for Bulgarian farmers, according to Bulgarian minister of agriculture, Ivan Ivanov, who said during a Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 18 July that it is therefore it is important to have clarity as soon as possible on what the approved Strategic Plan will look like. The minister explained that the country’s main concerns are related to the introduced legally binding targets to reduce to 50% the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 2030 and the use of more dangerous pesticides for each member state. “The Republic of Bulgaria insists that these goals be applied only at the level of the European Union. The reduction targets should be realistic, applicable in practice, scientifically and economically justified”, he urged. According to him, there are currently no accurate statistics on the actual use of plant protection products. Therefore, in his words, such legally binding targets would be acceptable when such data become available and/or can be collected electronically, also there is currently no uniform methodology at EU level for collecting data relating to the quantities of active substances “released on the market”.

Commission recommendations: To address Bulgaria’s specific concerns, the Commission recommended focusing on enhancing the competitiveness and market orientation of the sector, and improving the viability of smaller and medium-sized farms. Bulgaria should improve soil organic matter and preserve soil fertility, and work on reducing air pollution. The Commission added that the country should focus on drought resilience plans and water savings, and supporting conversion to and maintenance of organic farming. There is a strong focus on building business and employment opportunities to reduce poverty, and on improving farm biosecurity and animal welfare. Bulgaria should also aim for 100% fast broadband connection coverage in rural areas, while accelerating the development of digital and knowledge skills in rural areas and agriculture.

CAP plan approved: Croatia’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 28 October 2022, together with Slovenia and Sweden. The strategy focuses on young and small farmers via farm investments and business development projects, as well as on higher standards of animal welfare in five livestock sectors (cattle, pigs, poultry, goats and sheep).

Plan submitted: Croatia submitted its national strategic plan at the end of 2021. The plan offers €3.6 billion for Croatian farmers in the 2023-2027 period, while the transitional regulation for 2021 and 2022 provides €1.75 billion for rural development measures and €131 million has been secured for the implementation of reforms under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

Commission recommendations: Croatia must support the primary sector in strengthening its position in the value chain by financing investments to diversify product portfolios. In this sense, it might be helpful to develop quality policies with higher added value, such as organic products, and develop and enhance vertical integration between agricultural producers, processors and distributors. The Commission also asked to harness the opportunities of the Croatian bio-economy sector through offering relevant investment support and financial instruments.

CAP plan approved: Cyprus’ CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 2 December 2022, together with Italy. Cyprus wants to support the production of halloumi cheese, the main Cypriot agricultural export, and the sheep and goats farming sector. Water management and soil preservation have been identified as the main challenges to address

Derogations are a welcome move: Cyprus has welcomed the Commission’s decision to derogate on certain environmental measures in the CAP 2023 programming period, according to the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Andreas Grigoriou, who spoke during the meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 18 July in Brussels. In his intervention, Grigoriou stressed the heavy impact of the war on the market of agricultural products, welcomed the measures taken by the European Commission to date to deal with the problems in the member states. Cyprus will use all the possibilities at its disposal to its support farmers, Grigoriou said, stressing the need for further facilitations to be given and additional measures to be adopted to deal with the challenges, he said. 

All systems go to make 1 January deadline: Grigoriou also offered reassurances that Cyprus is taking all necessary actions in order to smoothly start the implementation of its own strategic plan from January 1, 2023, adding the country will “participate constructively” in the consultations with the aim of formulating a legislative proposal friendly to the environment as well as to agriculture sector.

Commission recommendations: Cyprus should focus on supporting smaller, more disconnected farms and invest in organic and quality production (e.g. within EU quality schemes) and the development of niche markets. It should also focus on the sustainable production of renewable energy and maintain the presence and conservation of landscape elements and restore favourable conservation status for protected habitats. There is also a strong focus on water, including the cultivation of less water-intensive drought-resistant crops, and on sustainable forest management. Cyprus should also encourage investments in economic and social infrastructure (schools, healthcare, voluntary activities) in mountain areas and work to ensure better services in rural areas and improve generational renewal in agriculture by supporting schemes to reduce the entry barriers in the sector, mainly regarding access to land.

CAP plan approved: Czechia’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 24 November 2022, together with Slovakia. Czechia’s plan puts a focus on resilience and protection of natural resources. It also looks at improving redistribution of financial support to small- and medium-sized farms while strengthening organic farming.

At the helm of the EU: the Czech Republic took over the reins of the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union on Friday (1 July), intending to focus on food security. The Czech Presidency will oversee a number of key agrifood files, including the adoption of member states’ Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) national strategic plans. Dmitrij Černikov, COREPER I spokesperson for the Czech permanent representation to the EU, told EURACTIV, that “it will not be an easy one because we have to balance our long-term objectives together with the new challenges, be it Farm to Fork, Fit for 55, or the Biodiversity strategy”. The most important thing is to provide EU farmers with “to give them clarity and certainty” including legal certainty, he said.

Read more about Czech Presidency priorities at EURACTIV.

‘Right direction’ for Czech farmers: Minister of agriculture Zdeněk Nekula said in a press release that Czech farmers “need to have clear and reliable information about the new conditions,” which will come into force on 1 January next year. “Throughout January, we discussed changes in the strategic plan, which are based on previous comments from NGOs, environmentalists, the Ministry of the Environment and the European Commission,” he said, stressing that the compromise ent to Brussels “respects the real situation in our agriculture and will change it in the right direction,” aka towards “better care for the soil and landscape, healthier water and healthier food”. 

Main points: The ministry said that the main change compared to the previous version of the plan is the redistributive payment parameter, which will increase from the original 10-23%of the total amount for direct payments. “Support will be provided to all enterprises, regardless of their size, for the first 150 hectares,” a government statement stated. The Czech government also approved a 65% co-financing of the Rural Development Program in the new CAP, something it said is comparable to other EU countries and will enable Czech farmers to “remain competitive at the European level”.

Clearer picture for farmers: From this week, farmers can calculate the amount of newly set subsidies via the ‘Agronavigator’ portal. The so-called Calculator 3, prepared by the ministry of agriculture and the institute of agricultural economics and information, is available free of charge.  It serves agricultural enterprises as a tool for the preliminary calculation of selected operating aids resulting from the revision of the strategic plan for 2023 onwards. The ministry of agriculture will also prepare an instructional video, which will be available via the same portal.

Czech farmers fight over CAP Strategic plan: Small farmers are up in arms over the national strategic plan to implement the EU’s CAP reform in Czechia, calling for more sustainable agricultural funding while larger farmers oppose last-minute changes. The row between the farmers escalated on 9 January when the small farmers association leaked the guidelines distributed among large farmers. In these guidelines allegedly produced by the Agrarian Chamber a demonstration on Tuesday (11 January), farmers found instructions saying, “do not tell journalists that the president of the Chamber asked you to join the demonstration” etc. Read more.

Commission recommendations: For the Commission, the Czech CAP strategic plan needs to focus its interventions on accelerating the conversion of conventional farming to organic through adequate conversion and maintenance schemes, as well as on strengthening the efforts to decrease the quantities and risks of most hazardous used pesticides and promoting the sustainable use of pesticides.

 

CAP plan approved: Denmark’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 1 September 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. Denmark’s plan puts the focus on modernisation and digitalisation, along with environmental and climate standards. 

Among the frontrunners: the Danish national CAP plan will be among the first to get the go-ahead from the European Commission. The first adoption decisions, therefore, are expected to fall in early September. 

Methane emissions not reduced enough: In a letter signed by the head of department in the Commission’s agricultural unit, Wolfgang Burtscher, Denmark was encouraged to send a revised plan for how the country will live up to the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), taking into account the issues of emissions from enteric fermentation, manure or feed handling. Although the Commission criticised Denmark on some points, the strategy was also praised. For example, it is called “complete” and also receives recognition for ambitious objectives in many areas.

Plan outline: The plan sets out three main goals – to promote a smart, competitive, resilient, and robust agricultural sector which guarantees food security in the long term, to support and strengthen environmental protection, including contributing to the implementation of a range of national action plans regarding the climate, nitrate use and forests, and to strengthen the socio-economic structure of rural areas, including attracting the next generation of farmers to the sector.  

Eco-schemes: The plan puts forward six eco-schemes, including permanent pasture land, broadening its slaughtering capacities and organic agriculture. 

Reactions: While the plans have not sparked a huge amount of controversy, Henrik Bertelsen, a representative from the agriculture, food and agroindustry organisation Landbrug og Fødevarer, was critical of the plan and the overall CAP reform over fears that the rules and requirements may be too complex for farmers, and therefore ineffective. Meanwhile, a representative for part-time farmers in Landbrug og Fødevarer, Jens Simonsen, was optimistic about the overall plans of promoting more nature, but refrained from commenting on the Danish plan given that it is not yet final.  However, he said that he would like to have seen more eco-schemes put forward. 

Commission recommendations: Denmark should enhance its competitiveness and market orientation by maintaining a strong focus on research, development and innovation to be able to adapt agricultural production to future challenges and focus on preserving and reinforcing the cooperative structure, considering that the high level of control by farmers of the food supply chain facilitates long-term investments to adapt to future challenges, including managing operational risk for the primary producers. The Commission adds that support must be distributed more evenly between different farm sizes and carbon farming must be given a stronger focus.

CAP plan submitted: Denmark submitted its national plan to the Commission on 22 December, 2021.  You can find a link to the plan here.

CAP plan approved: Estonia’s CAP plan was officially approved by the European Commission on 11 November 2022. 

Details: Estonia’s Plan places a strong focus on the diversification of the agricultural sector to ensure long-term food security, including a focus on digital innovations. It also aims to promote collaboration among primary producers to strengthen their position in the value chain, especially via food quality schemes. 

Commission recommendations: Estonia should strengthen the competitive position of the agricultural sector by improving access to finance, in particular by reviewing financial instruments to be used in conjunction with the CAP. The Baltic country is also asked to put in place more ambitious animal welfare measures, especially for pigs and laying hens, and improve biosecurity in view of African swine fever (ASF) risk.

CAP plan approved: Finland’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 1 September 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Denmark, France, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The focus areas are food security, farm competitiveness, environmental and climate ambition and development of rural areas. The Finnish Plan combines both Mainland Finland and Åland Islands.

Not enough simplification: According to the Finnish agriculture minister Antti Kurvinen who took the floor at July Agrifish Council, negotiations on CAP strategic plans with the Commission have been ‘very intense but constructive’ with the final cut expected to be sent soon for the final approval. Meanwhile, Finland is making progress when it comes to national implementation and the development of the new IT system. However, the minister expressed his disappointment about the little attention given to simplification, which was supposed to be one of the key elements of the CAP reform. Previously, Finland was one of the countries that submitted its national plan before the end of 2021 deadline. You can find the plan here.

Commission recommendations: Finland should promote productivity-increasing investments and address the financing gaps, e.g. by enhancing the value-added of agricultural production. The country should strengthen efforts to reduce ammonia emissions, in particular from the livestock sector, and increase the area under organic farming. Finland should also increase nutrient use efficiency and limit the leaching of nutrients affecting coastal areas and the Baltic Sea. The country should continue efforts in promoting generational renewal, and promote and invest in the expansion of broadband in rural and remote areas.

 

Among the frontrunners: The French national CAP plan will be among the first to get the go-ahead from the European Commission. The first adoption decisions, therefore, are expected to fall in early September. As it was said by Marc Fesneau, Minister for Agriculture and Food Sovereignty: “I am pleased to be able to announce the finalisation of the national strategic plan within the timetable we had set ourselves and after fruitful consultation and dialogue with all the stakeholders”. 

CAP plan approved: France’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 5 September 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. With its plan, France aims to ensure food security while contributing to climate objectives through farm diversification, preservation of permanent grasslands, plant protein production, agroecology and organic farming. It also combines national and regional elements.

Agreement reached: Marc Fesneau, Minister for Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, welcomed the fact that an agreement to temporarily derogate from certain environmental measures was struck, saying this will allow “farmers to plan their sowings with peace of mind as of this summer.” Learn more here. 

All on track: France submitted its national strategic plan to the European Commission on time (22 December 2021). You can find the plan here.

Key aims: The priorities put forward by the French ministry of Agriculture include developing legume production, doubling organic farming areas by 2027, and creating synergies between crops and livestock. In terms of greening its agricultural system, France wants to use the resources of the future CAP to support the diversification of crops and the planting of hedges to favour biodiversity and carbon storage. Carbon farming and the preservation of permanent grasslands are other hot topics for France’s Agrifood minister Julien Denormandie.

CAP plan approved: Germany’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 21 November 2022, together with Greece and Lithuania. The German plan seeks to boost quality of life in rural areas and includes both national and regional elements to ensure a fair approach. Supporting farm income is a key objective to keep farms viable and ensure food security.

Farmers’ early Christmas present. The German government will allow for this year’s CAP direct payments to farmers to be disbursed already before rather than after Christmas, the agriculture ministry announced on 14 November. The step is meant to help ease the financially tight situation many farmers are faced with amid the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Since the EU only reimburses the funds in early February 2023, the advanced payments will entail additional prefinancing costs, which will be covered by Germany’s federal budget.

Cabinet adopts national legislation tweaks. Germany’s government cabinet approved two regulations set to transpose the latest adjustments to the country’s strategic plan into national law on 19 October. The regulations reflect the version of the plan that Germany submitted in early October and that has been informally agreed with, but not formally approved by the Commission. The agriculture ministry welcomed the cabinet’s decision as a step towards planning security for farmers.

Revised plan submitted, stakeholders not impressed.With the submission of its revised strategic plan, Germany has moved a significant step closer to implementing the EU’s landmark agricultural reform, yet neither farmers nor environmentalists are particularly convinced by the proposed changes. Learn more

Derogation compromise in the bag. After initial clashes over whether and how much to loosen CAP green rules, federal minister Özdemir and the regions reached a compromise in mid-August on which of the derogations granted by the Commission in the face of the Ukraine war should be implemented in Germany. The derogations granted by the Commission mean that, until the end of 2023, countries can decide to suspend some of the environmental requirements farmers usually need to fulfil in order to receive the full amount of EU agri subsidies.

According to the agreement, which was approved by the government cabinet on 31 August, farmers will not have to take additional areas out of production in 2023 to reach the 4% fallow land requirement originally set out in the new CAP. Moreover, crop rotation rules will be relaxed so that farmers can grow wheat on the same area twice in a row.

Germany to review its CAP plan in light of Ukraine war. Germany will re-examine its plans for the implementation of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in light of the war in Ukraine, the agriculture ministry said in response to the European Commission’s call to move towards ‘resilient and sustainable’ agriculture. EURACTIV Germany has more. 

German agri minister pleased with Commission’s criticism of CAP strategic plan. In its observation letter on Germany’s plans for implementing the EU agricultural reform, the European Commission made far-reaching criticisms and called for more environmental and climate protection. German agriculture minister Cem Özdemir, however, welcomes the complaints. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Finally submitted: One and a half months after the deadline, Germany submitted its strategic plan to the Commission on 21 February. More info, as well as the full, 1800-page document, can be found here. The document was handed over by agriculture minister Cem Özdemir, who had taken office in December, after much of the work on the plan had already been done by his predecessor.

What did the new government change? The short answer is: not much. While many had wondered whether the delay in finalising the plan was due to the new Green minister making changes to what his conservative predecessor had hammered out, the changes made turned out to be minimal. Instead, the extra time mostly seems to have gone into the federal regions finalising their contributions to the plan.

The most notable adjustments concern organic farming: The new government had raised the national organics target to 30% of agricultural land by 2030, and has now incorporated the goal into the strategic plan. Özdemir also stressed that the coherence between eco-schemes and second-pillar support for organic farming had been improved “on the final stretch”. The risk that organic farms might not be able to take part in the eco-schemes, which are meant to reward environmentally friendly practices, had been a main point of contention for stakeholders.

Open questions on Green Deal alignment: In its plan, Germany chose not to fill in the section detailing how the plan will align with the goals of the EU’s Green Deal. While this is not mandatory for member states, environmentalists criticised the decision as a sign that the new minister was not confident Germany will be able deliver on the green goals.

Background: The German Bundestag had passed a legislative package to implement the new CAP at the national level already in June even when the reform had not been concluded yet in Brussels. The reason was that the legislative process for the CAP transposition had to be completed before the federal elections to prevent the laws from being subject to discontinuity. To clarify remaining details and incorporate the requirements set out in the EU-level legislation, the outgoing government cabinet also passed additional executive directives on 24 November, which the Bundesrat approved mid-December. Among other things, the two directives provide for premium levels and requirements for the country’s catalogue of eco-schemes, as well as additional specifications on the enhanced conditionality criteria.

You can also find a more info (in German) on how Germany is advancing with its plan here.

CAP plan approved: Greece’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 21 November 2022, together with Germany and Lithuania. The plan claims to ‘shift towards a new production model’ by promoting innovation and new technologies, fostering young entrepreneurship and securing a fair income for farmers.

More flexibility on coupled aid: The procedure for proving the national strategic plans is moving forward, farming minister Georgios Georgantas told his counterparts on 18 July. “Greece is discussing very intensively with the Commission services in order to resolve any outstanding issues, especially with respect to the green architecture,” he added. In particular, Greece is calling on more flexibility when it comes to the coupled aid in order to adapt the plan to the current crisis that the sector is facing. In an interview with EURACTIV Greece, Georgantas said that Greece reshaped its strategic plan in light of the Ukraine war to strengthen resilience.

At the same time, the country is upgrading the information systems for its paying agency, as well as preparing the national legislation to put the strategic plan in action as soon as it is approved. “We need to move forward quickly. There should be no delays,” the minister concluded.

Greece one of the first to submit: Greece was among the first EU countries to submit its national strategic plan, which outlines the creation of three separate funds for pasture, arable and tree crops, amounting 26.9%, 45.6% and 27.5% of the budget respectively. The plan also sets out to clamp down on so-called ‘armchair’ farmers and ensure that money and benefits are only going to active farmers, as per specific criteria. You can find a link to the plan here.

Commission recommendations: Greece must improve the resilience of farms through a fairer, more effective and efficient distribution of direct payments, and improve environmental standards by prioritising interventions in actions that promote permanent grassland and their environmental protection. It should also work to improve farmers’ position in the food supply chain and targeting higher added value products, like organic, which should be specifically encouraged. In terms of climate and environmental action, Greece should develop its bio-economy by increasing the contribution of agricultural waste and by-products to produce renewable energy, although warns that at the same time it must work to preserve the attractiveness of rural landscapes. Greece should focus on improving soil health by addressing soil erosion, addressing water use efficiency, especially in light of climate change projections for water scarcity, and encouraging carbon sequestration though carbon farming and sustainable forest management. Greece must prepare for a multitude of environmental issues, including drought, flood protection and adaptation to high wildfire risk. It should also strengthen efforts on generational renewal in agriculture by reducing the entry barriers in the sector, especially financial barriers, and should focus on tackling poverty, unemployment, and the employment gender gap, as well as rolling out broadband to rural areas. 

CAP plan approved: Hungary’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 7 November 2022. Hungary focuses on modern technologies and creating job opportunities. It will also seek to increase productivity and efficiency of agricultural production.

Just in the nick of time: Hungary has managed to submit its strategic plan just in the nick of time at the end of 2021, according to the Budapest Business Journal. Speaking on Thursday (30 December), the Minister of Agriculture, István Nagy, said that Hungary is “modernising the agriculture and food supply sectors that are the backbone of the rural economy, while preserving the natural values of our created world, allowing for an improved quality of life for people in the countryside, and providing support to small- and medium-sized farms”. The decision to raise the national co-financing threshold to the maximum 8o% will make 6,253 billion forints (€16.9bn) in funding available for farming, food industry and rural community developments, he added.

Commission recommendations: Hungary must address the income gaps among different (professional) farm sizes, sectors and territories and strengthen redistribution between farms. It should also promote the market orientation and competitiveness of the farming and agri-food sector by further supporting investments in logistics and processing and strengthen the position of farmers in the food chain and supporting ways to add value to products. Hungary must also prepare agriculture for challenges on water management and incentivise sustainable (re)conversion and maintenance of organic farming. It should also promote climate mitigation practices, e.g. by designing carbon farming approaches to remunerate carbon sequestration, and must work to reversing depopulation and ageing trends in rural Hungary by making the agricultural sector more attractive for newcomers and supporting the use of smart, innovative and local solutions that address issues of access to land, credit and training, and fostering knowledge, skills and technological development.

CAP plan approved: Ireland’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 1 October 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Denmark, Finland, France, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The Irish strategy highlights supporting viable farm incomes and reducing the gap between farming and other sectors. It will also prioritise the fruit, vegetable and apiculture sectors.

Secondary legislation worries Dublin: Ireland has worked closely with the Commission throughout the structure dialogue process, said agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue on 18 July. He added that the remaining outstanding points are about to be finalised expecting “to have a stable text in the coming days.” For the minister, the main difficulty is to discuss the strategic plan while simultaneously building the administrative systems to implement it. “New rules introduced in the secondary legislation have further impacted systems in the middle of development,” he said.

Ireland is particularly concerned about the legislation regarding the details of the annual progress report unveiled on 12 July, as it is likely to present a serious challenge to fully capture the necessary reporting elements.

Successful submission: On December 21, the Government agreed to submit Ireland’s draft CAP strategic plan to the European Commission. Speaking at the time, Irish agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue said he believes the country has created a strategic plan that will “help to achieve our ambitious environmental goals, while also delivering income security for family farms for the period 2023-2027”. “The budget commitment of almost €10 billion, and in particular the massive increase in national co-funding, is also a real demonstration of the commitment of this Government to farmers and to the wider rural economy,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but the draft Plan provides a solid foundation on which to build,” he added. 

Does not hit the right notes for farmers: The plan has been slammed by the Irish farmers association (IFA) who believe that the proposed CAP strategic plan doesn’t strike the right balance between environmental, economic and social sustainability. IFA President Tim Cullinan said in a statement that the plan will “hit a cohort of our most productive farmers who will see a devastating cut in their Basic Payment. Many beef, sheep and tillage farmers who do not have off-farm income will find it very difficult to achieve viability.”

Commission recommendations: Ireland should look to diversify its products and markets, ranging from exports to local and agro-tourism, and invest in quality aspects, including environmental labelling, EU and other quality schemes, organic farming.  The country should also focus on improving the viability of medium-sized farms and the efficiency of income support, in particular via internal convergence and by applying, for example, the complementary redistributive income support for sustainability and the reduction of payments. It should encourage improvements to the efficiency of enteric fermentation in farmed livestock in line with the Methane Strategy, and halt the deterioration of Irish peatlands and encourage their restoration. Ireland is also advised to step up efforts to encourage tree-planting in various configurations – including agro-forestry systems and make significant efforts to increase the area farmed organically. To improve the resilience of the farming sector to climate risks, Ireland should look to support partnerships between livestock and arable farms and the creation of fodder reserves and put in place more ambitious measures to support farmers to improve livestock management practices, especially for pigs and male dairy calves.

CAP plan approved: Italy’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 2 December 2022, together with Cyprus. Italy’s plan will introduce a maximum amount per hectare on the basic income support to farmers and commits to increasing the area under organic farming to 25% of the agricultural land.

Government crisis might further delay the final text: Italy was expected to present its strategic plan by the end of July but the government crisis triggered by PM Mario Draghi’s resignation might further delay the drafting of the final text. According to an Italian diplomat, the government is meeting with representatives of the regions on a weekly basis, while the national Parliament has also played a crucial role in putting forward useful proposals.

In parallel to the finalisation of the plan, the agriculture ministry and the payment agency are working on reorganizing the national information systems, which involved a big investment as the country has to introduce data governance.

Observation letter: Italy decided to publish its observation letter from the European Commission, which you can find here.

Plan submitted: The Italian ministry of Agriculture submitted the plan to Brussels in the first days of January (the news on the ministry website is dated January 7), despite previous suggestions that Italy was behind schedule. You can find a link to the plan here.

Main objectives: The main objectives outlined in the plan are to enhance the competitiveness of the agricultural system from a sustainable perspective, to strengthen the resilience and vitality of rural areas, to promote quality agricultural and forestry work and safety in the workplace, to support the ability to activate exchanges of knowledge, research and innovations, and the optimisation of the governance
system.

Show me the money:  To reach these goals, the plan earmarks €10 billion, between the first and second pillar, for interventions with clear environmental purposes, with 25% of direct aid resources will be allocated to 5 national eco-schemes, as well as €2.5 billion for organic farming and €1.8 billion euros for the improvement of animal welfare conditions and the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It also provides €3 billion for new risk management tools.

Plan slammed by NGOs: The plan has not satisfied environmental NGOs. For example, the Cambiamo Agriculture coalition (which
includes FederBio, Legambiente, WWF, Slow Food and Lipu) said in a statement that the plan is “against nature” because the part on biodiversity conservation has disappeared from the final version, and the set of measures envisaged is very uncertain. “Insisting
on investments all concentrated on conventional agriculture will open up a worrying prospect also on the economic and employment level,” the NGOs said, adding that, by distancing itself from organic farming, Italy risks “losing the leadership gained over the years”.

But no major changes foreseen by Italy’s agri minister: Stefano Patuanelli, Italian minister of Agriculture, told EURACTIV Italy that while some observations from Bruxelles may arrive on how to apply the eco-schemes, he doesn’t think there will be “wide-ranging objections”. In the meantime, the Italian government is “discussing with the regions on the FeAsr division, that is, on the regional allocation of the resources of the second pillar,” he said.

Commission recommendations: Italy should address the low level of digitalisation in agriculture completing investments for fast broadband connection coverage reaching the door of all households in rural areas. In a bid to mitigate climate change, it should be ensured an appropriate blend of voluntary interventions and obligations such as supporting practices leading to more efficient input use. Encouraging more young people to move into farming, improving animal welfare especially for pigs and laying hens, and enhancing the increasing trend of areas under organic farming are among the other recommendations for Italy.

CAP plan approved: Latvia’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 11 November 2022, together with Estonia. The plan puts emphasis on the development of rural areas, promotion of knowledge-based entrepreneurial capacity and ensuring food security.

Plan missing in action: Latvia was one of the 9 EU countries that failed to submit their plan to the European Commission on time. However, it submitted its plan on 18 January, which can be found here.

Competitiveness and farm income in focus: Fostering the production of competitive products for domestic and export markets is among the priorities of Latvia’s strategic plan, according to the country’s representation to the EU. The plan also sets out to raise rural household incomes to the national average and to make safe and quality food accessible to all consumers, a spokesperson told EURACTIV.

A busy year ahead: After the adoption of the relevant EU-level delegated and implementing acts, Latvia is now looking to adopt the national legislation that is needed for the implementation of the new CAP within this year. This will include two horizontal regulations by the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as several specific ones for different interventions. Moreover, the country will use 2022 to prepare the administrative and digital infrastructure necessary for the new measures to be put in place.

Commission recommendations: Latvia must improve the viability of farms with lower incomes, especially smaller farms with higher development potential, through more targeted and effective distribution of direct payments. Making farmers more resilient to risks – market disruption, climate change, and plant/animal health – together with improving their position in the food supply chain are also key to ensuring food security through CAP.

 

CAP plan approved: Lithuania’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 21 November 2022, together with Germany and Greece. Lithuania’s Plan puts a strong emphasis on ensuring a fair income for farmers. Enhancing innovation and increasing the attractiveness of rural areas are also emphasised.

Farmers ask for more clearance: during one of the meetings with local farmers on July 18 Minister of Agriculture Kęstutis Navickas mentioned that farmers, despite finding the CAP beneficial, are struggling because of the delayed approval of the strategic plans while sowing plans have to be made. Therore, during the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union (Brussels) on July 19 the Minister made a claim saying that farmers ask “for postponing the application of the Strategic Plan for one year, or at least applying the requirements that need to be prepared from the fall, only from 2024”.

Commission recommendations: Lithuania is asked to reducing pressure from the agricultural sector on natural resources by cutting ammonia emissions, increasing soil organic carbon content, better nutrient management and increasing nutrient use efficiency. At the same time, the country must raise entrepreneurship in rural areas and improving/diversifying rural incomes – including forestry, rural tourism and untapped potential offered by the bio-economy.

You can find the plan here.

Plan Commission-approved: Along with Austria, Luxembourg was among the second batch of countries to have their plans approved by the Commission on 13 September, after the country had submitted the updated version of its plan, including tweaks to reflect the Commission’s feedback, on 30 August. In a statement, agriculture minister Claude Haagen welcomed the approval and called the plan a “balanced compromise to meet environmental objectives while ensuring the modernisation of farms.” He added that the plan “respects Luxembourg’s specificities” by focusing on measures to support “an agriculture sector largely driven by small and medium-sized family businesses.”

Three key priorities: According to the ministry, the Luxembourgish plan focuses on three main priorities: Firstly, it is set to ensure farming businesses’ competitiveness and especially support the sectors facing difficulties. Secondly, the plan aims to boost environmental action in farming. And finally, it aims to support young farmers and ensure generational renewal.

National legislation approved: Luxembourg passed a new agricultural law set to implement some of the reformed CAP on 22 July 2022. Meanwhile, the relevant regulations setting out details on funding schemes are “in the finalisation phase,” according to the ministry, while details on the new rules have already been communicated to the relevant stakeholders.

Time of the essence: According to a Luxembourgish representative speaking at the meeting of EU ministers on 18 July, EU countries “cannot afford to lose more time” on CAP plans, stressing that time is of the essence. 

Commission recommendations: Luxembourg should enhance the resilience of farms by improving fairness of income support towards smaller farms and continuing the modernisation or transformation of farms, particularly in the livestock sector. It should also look towards ways to increase the added value of agricultural production for farmers by supporting quality schemes, and increasing consumer interest in such quality aspects and in organic food, and look to reduce non-CO2 emissions from the livestock sector and soil fertilisation. It focus on improving air and water quality and reinforce the protection of biodiversity, including encouraging pest management beneficial for pollinators and prioritising non-chemical methods. The country should also increase the surface area under organic farming and enhance multifunctional and sustainable forest management, protection and restoration of forests ecosystems while enhancing the conditions for new, young farmers to start agricultural activity outside the family setting, including young female farmers, and creating employment opportunities in farming. 

To dig in: The full text of Luxembourg’s plan (in French) can be found here, while the Commission’s observation letter is available here. Further information and documentation is available in German and in French.

CAP plan approved: Malta’s CAP Strategic Plan has been the latest to be approved on 30 November 2022. The Maltese plan focuses on environmental and climate objectives to be able to meet the demands of the future, as well as on fair income for farmers, rural conditions and digitalisation. Malta foresees finding solutions to the difficult situation of beekeepers due to pests.

September plan submission: Maltese authorities aim to submit their updated strategic plan in September, according to a representative speaking at the meeting of EU ministers on 18 July.  Depending on how the dialogues go with the Commission, the Maltese authorities are “confident that they will be able to adopt the necessary national provisions as soon as the Commission approves the strategic plan,” they said. 

Commission recommendations: Malta should look to improve value added in the agricultural sector by supporting investments in cost reduction and quality production, e.g. in developing niche markets. It should also look to enhance the position of the farmer in the value chain and aim to involve farmers more in downstream activities. The country should improve overall carbon farming capacity and support the reintroduction of local breeds and crop varieties that are more resilient in drier conditions. It should also aim to·cut ammonia emissions in agriculture by supporting low-emission management practices and related investments, including precision farming. Malta should enhance agricultural modernisation and improve farm business development to attract young farmers by addressing the entry barriers to the sector (i.e. access to land) and incentivising the use of smart, green and digital technologies as part of efforts to increase employment and creation of high-quality jobs in rural areas by investments in diverse economic activities and in developing basic services.

Plan submission expected first week of September: The Netherlands is currently in the process of finalising now the last “mostly technical” details of its CAP plan,  according to a representative speaking at the meeting of EU ministers on 18 July. They added that a “lot of progress has been made over the past month” and that they expect to conclude and submit its strategic plan in first week of September. “Timely approval of the plan is of great importance to our farmers, they must be able to prepare and plan their activities for next year,” they said.

Commission recommendations: The national strategic plan should consider investments in high-quality and/or distinctive food characteristics, including organic production, and increasing the efficiency of supply chain management. Among the main objectives, there is also the goal of reducing nutrient pollution of water and air, as well as nitrogen deposition below their critical level in nitrogen-vulnerable Natura 2000 sites.

CAP plan approved: Poland’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 1 September 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. The plan will support sustainable development of farms, processing sector and conditions in rural areas. At the same time, it focuses on animal welfare and the protection of water, soil, air and biodiversity.

Among the frontrunners: the Polish national CAP plan will be among the first to get the go-ahead from the European Commission. The first adoption decisions, therefore, are expected to fall in early September. 

Significant changes in a new plan: As stated by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Henryk Kowalczyk, the plan has undergone very significant changes compared to the original plan submitted in December: “The main change is a significant increase, doubling the expenditure on animal welfare subsidies – this is sort of the main part of this change”. Henryk Kowalczyk informed that the negotiations with the European Commission were very intense and that Polish expectations were mostly met. In one case, he said, a compromise was needed, concerning the preservation of the soil cover for the winter period. The EC expected 100 % soil cover, Polish part postulated 50 percent – the final compromise was 80%. 

Less eco-schemes: A new plan submitted to the EU also included changes regarding the so-called eco-schemes: instead of 16 in the original plan this time the country went down to 5. “One of them is the so-called coal farming, which will consist of several activities. These will be actions that will add up. The farmer will be able to choose one, the other, the third. The more of these activities in coal agriculture he chooses, the greater will be the possibility of obtaining a subsidy”, – said Minister Kowalczyk.

CAP plan approved: Portugal’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 1 September 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, and Spain. The Portuguese strategy combines regional and national elements, and it’s based on innovative and sustainable agricultural and forestry production.

Among the frontrunners: the Portuguese national CAP plan will be among the first to get the go-ahead from the European Commission. The first adoption decisions, therefore, are expected to fall in early September. 

Commission recommendations: Portugal must encourage business-oriented farm management and increase the average economic farm size and productivity, through better organisation of the sector, stimulating farm capital investments. At the same time, the country should reduce the depopulation trend, risk of poverty and gender employment gap in rural areas by promoting a multi-funded strategy, ensuring synergies between EU and national funds, creating the conditions and infrastructure for the setting-up of businesses, quality employment and training opportunities in rural areas.

Tight turnaround: According to a representative speaking at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 18 July, Romania is making “every effort” to conclude the National Strategic Plan as soon as possible. However, they highlighted that setting up IT systems to arrange consultations and information sharing with farmers will be challenging given the short time between the adoption of the plan and the approval by the Commission. Another problematic issue for Romania is the extension of organic farming areas. The Commission aims to see 25% of EU land farmed organically by 2030. “This is a target that’s difficult to meet in the context of higher agri food prices because of higher input prices,” the Romanian representative warned, stressing the need to link supply with demand.

Commission recommendations: Romania needs to making farmers’ income less vulnerable to external factors, including climate change. Commission suggest increasing sustainable agricultural management practices (no-till, strip-till especially on slopes, crop rotation with forage-legume crops), the use of risk management tools, investments in new technologies, and planting of forest. Reducing the economic and social gap between urban and rural areas, reducing poverty in rural areas, with a specific attention to vulnerable groups is another area that needs to be addressed in the strategic plan.

CAP plan approved: The European Commission formally approved Slovakia’s CAP Strategic plan on 24 November 2022, together with Czechia. Slovakia’s plan highlights farm resilience and fair income for farmers, especially small and young farmers. In addition, the country wants to support areas facing natural constraints, such as mountains and work towards avoiding land abandonment.

Focus on biomethane, energy: In the context of the conflict in Ukraine and the Repower EU initiative, Slovakia is focusing on earmarking specific funds in the second pillar to reduce the dependence of Slovakian fossil fuels Russian energy and other external inputs, its agriculture minister said during a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 18 July. To do so, it will encourage the production of biomethane and the transition to other types of biological fuels in Slovakia, he said. He added that eco schemes will be “one of the biggest challenges for the next programming period.” “It is an absolutely new type of support, which, moreover, has quite restrictive rules in terms of the environment and the budget,” he said, calling for a higher flexibility.

Commission recommendations: There needs to be a rebalancing the distribution of power in vertical chains, according to the Commission, which can be achieved by strengthening the role of producer organisations and the participation of small farmers in them, as well as diversification from conventional agricultural and foodstuffs to sustainable and high added value ones (such as EU quality schemes and organic food). Slovakia should also focus on improving the viability of farms by better addressing the income gaps among different (professional) farm sizes, sectors and territories, and improve the resilience of the agricultural sector through promotion of risk management tools. The country should foster a conversion from conventional farming to organic, and increase resilience to climate change by increasing water efficiency through modernisation of water infrastructure and rainwater harvesting, crop adaptation and appropriate land management practices improving water retention in soils. The country should also focus on protecting and expanding their forests, and strengthen the efforts to decrease the quantities and risks of most hazardous used pesticides. It should promote the socio-economic development of rural areas by supporting the development of economic activities in rural areas through mobilisation of activities in new sectors (i.e. developing the bio-economy), and focus on improve the connectivity of rural areas. 

CAP plan approved: Slovenia’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 28 October 2022, together with Croatia and Sweden. Slovenia’s strategy is to ensure food security and sustainable food production and to support the fruit and vegetable, wine and apiculture sectors.

CAP process ‘complex and demanding’: The completion and adoption of CAP strategic plans should be the EU’s “common priority”, according to the Slovenian agriculture minister Irena Šinko. Speaking before EU agriculture ministers at a meeting on 18 July, the minister stressed the need to find stable conditions for farmers in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying Slovenia is “intensively cooperating with the Commission” to get the plan approved.  “The farmers and the public need to be informed in a timely manner about all the different requirements on the of the future strategic plans and the CAP. The whole process is very demanding very complex. And we need to find an appropriate balance between all the objectives of the CAP,” she said. Meanwhile, she assured the Commission that, with Slovenia’s planned approach to green architecture, the country can achieve a “high involvement of farmers, and by extension, an appropriate level of environmental and climate ambition”.

Commission recommendations: Slovenia has to mitigate disadvantageous farm structure by significantly strengthening the cooperation between producers and producer organisations, by increasing market orientation of production. There should be an improvement in the biodiversity status of protected habitats and species, including wild pollinators through the support for management practices aimed at the maintenance or restoration of the habitats and species’ favourable conservation status, as well as an improvement to the size of agricultural area under high diversity landscape features.

You can find Slovenia’s plan here.

CAP plan approved: Spain’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 1 September 2022, together with the rest of the first batch of approvals: Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. Spain’s plan combines national and regional specificities. The consolidation of a lively rural environment is a key focus in the strategy, together with ensuring a fair approach to all farmers.

Among the frontrunners: the Spanish national CAP plan will be among the first to get the go-ahead from the European Commission. The first adoption decisions, therefore, are expected to fall in early September. 

Support for derogation: Spain and the country’s agri minister Luis Planas expressed their support for the  temporarily loosening of certain environmental requirements enshrined in the reformed Common Agricultural Policy. Spain had repeatedly requested the European Commission to make these measures more flexible given the situation caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The measure’s application in the country will require making the necessary changes in the national regulations.

The decrees of the basic income aid of the new CAP are for public consultation: Spain has launched public consultations on the two regulations that are included in the legislative package that the Department led by Luis Planas has put in place for the correct execution of this new policy from next year, based on the National Strategic Plan of the CAP sent to Brussels. The Ministry has specified that in the coming weeks the processing of the rest of the royal decrees that make up this legal architecture, which is essential for the application of the new CAP, will begin.

Observation letter: Spain has chosen to publish its observation letter from the European Commission, which you can find here.

Show me the money:  Spain will receive €47,724 million from the CAP for 2023-2027, an amount for farmers that could exceed €51,000 million with national and regional co-financing. More than €4,800 million will be allocated to direct payments and 1,700 million euros to rural development. The Spanish strategic plan also includes €700 million euros per year for coupled payments to support sectors in difficulty like livestock extensive farms, while funds for dairy cattle and goats will also be increased. Sugar beet, rice or raisin will also receive direct coupled support.

Commission recommendations: Spain should advance significantly on the internal convergence process and distributing direct income support towards homogenous groups of territories. Income gaps among different farm sizes should be addressed by using, for example, the complementary redistributive income support and the reduction of payments, the Commission suggests. Spain is also recommended to put in place sizeable efforts to significantly reduce its use of antimicrobials in agriculture and to improve animal welfare especially for pigs and laying hens.

CAP plan approved: Sweden’s CAP Strategic plan was formally approved by the European Commission on 28 October 2022, together with Croatia and Slovenia. Sweden will focus on increasing food production and the development of rural areas, while protecting animal welfare and increasing ambition in climate standards. 

Sustainable and secure: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has “made it clear that a sustainable and secure food supply is of great importance for Europe,” according to a Swedish representative speaking at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers on 18 July. As such, the representative stressed it is “crucial” that the approval of the strategic plans is finalised as soon as possible in order to give farmers and managing authorities enough time to prepare for the new conditions. 

Sweden plans to make full use of derogations: Meanwhile, the representative explained that Sweden has made use of the 2022 exemption from the ecological focus areas, and welcomed the possibility to bring additional agricultural land into production, saying it has “created opportunities to increase the food production for farmers”. “We see a potential to increase the production even more in 2023,” they said, explaining that they want to encourage farmers to plant more winter crops with a higher yield potential predictability. Meanwhile, giving farmers time to prepare is a key priority for Sweden, the representative added. 

Commission recommendations: Sweden has to address the weak increase in total factor productivity and the decline of agricultural income and production, in particular in the livestock sectors, by providing appropriate investment support. At the same time, it has to maintain and boost the added value captured by the farmers along the food chain, focussing the support on research, innovation, knowledge, and strengthening the framework for farmers’ cooperation.

You can find a link to Sweden’s plan here.

A core aim of the European Commission is to delegate more responsibility to member states in planning CAP investments and policies.

This means that member states will now be directly responsible for CAP – its design, implementation and evaluation – allowing for a more flexible and targeted approach to the CAP.

Through these plans, countries will set out how they intend to meet the 9 EU-wide objectives using CAP instruments while responding to the specific needs of their farmers and rural communities.

In this way, the Commission aims to simplify and modernise the CAP, shifting the emphasis from compliance and rules towards results and performance.

The process of developing a strategic plan begins with two steps.

First, a SWOT analysis (an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) must be prepared based on an assessment and prioritisation of needs. These involve feedback from stakeholders through various mechanisms.

Second, an ex-ante evaluator must be chosen who is required to appraise the assessment of needs, including the procedures used to involve stakeholders.

Member states are currently undergoing this process, and the Commission is set to approve the first strategic plans by early September ready for implementation from 2023 onwards.

See here for a Commission presentation about how member states will go about drafting their plans.

More background

The EU’s common agricultural policy, or ‘CAP’ as it’s known, aims to support farmers and improve agricultural productivity, ensuring a stable supply of affordable food and that the EU’s farmers are able to make a reasonable living while also safeguarding the environment.

After years of discussions, lawmakers gave their green light to the reform of the CAP during a plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday (23 November). The reform passed with a wide majority, despite mounting calls from campaigners to scrap the CAP.

The CAP has undergone a series of transformations over the years to meet changing economic circumstances and citizens’ requirements and needs, which have put the CAP under pressure to provide answers to an increasing number of challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss and soil degradation.

These proposals aim to make the CAP more responsive to these current and future challenges while continuing to support European farmers for a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector.

The future CAP revolves around nine specific objectives reflecting its economic, environmental and socio-territorial multifunctionality. These include:

  • supporting viable farm income and resilience across the Union to enhance food security
  • enhancing market orientation and increasing competitiveness, including a greater focus on research, technology and digitalisation
  • improving the farmers’ position in the value chain
  • contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as sustainable energy
  • fostering sustainable development and efficient management of natural resources such as water, soil and air
  • contributing to the protection of biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem services and preserve habitats and landscapes
  • attracting young farmers and facilitate business development in rural areas
  • promoting employment, growth, social inclusion and local development in rural areas, including bio-economy and sustainable forestry
  • improving the response of EU agriculture to societal demands on food and health, including safe, nutritious and sustainable food, food waste, as well as animal welfare

The CAP achieves this via:

  • Income support through direct payments. This is designed to ensure income stability and remunerate farmers for environmentally friendly farming and delivering public goods not normally paid for by the markets, such as taking care of the countryside
  • Market measures to deal with difficult market situations such as a sudden drop in demand due to a health scare, or a fall in prices as a result of a temporary oversupply on the market
  • Rural development measures with national and regional programmes to address the specific needs and challenges facing rural areas

The CAP is organised into two pillars.

Pillar 1 addresses farm income support and market management and is completely financed through the EU budget by the European agricultural guarantee fund.

Pillar 2 addresses rural development including agri-environment-climate measures and is co-financed jointly by the EU budget through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and by member states. 

See here to learn more about common concerns related to the CAP.

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