CAP Tracker – Next steps for the national strategic plans

Welcome to EURACTIV’s CAP tracker, your one-stop shop for all the latest developments on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Be sure to check back here regularly for updates on the next steps for the CAP and how member states are progressing with their National Strategic Plans.

Need a refresher about where we’re at on the CAP? All of EURACTIV’s CAP related stories can be found here, and you’ll find more background information below.

The country’s agriculture ministry had already presented a proposal of the national plan last November, which was followed by a public consultation in May 2021. According to this first draft, the ÖPUL  [Austria’s agri-environmental programme] – which also regulates the support for environmental measures and rural development via the CAP’s second pillar – will be reformed.

Commission recommendations: The Commission considers that the Austrian CAP strategic plan must focus on ensuring the viability of small and medium sized farms and improving the position of farmers in the food supply chain; improving soil health and reducing the impact on the climate from livestock farming and fostering sustainable forest management; strengthening the socio-economic fabric of rural areas in the context of an ageing society and depopulation; and digitalisation in agriculture and rural areas.

You can also find a detailed overview of how Austria is advancing with its plan here.

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.

Commission recommendations: To address Bulgaria’s specific concerns, the Commission recommends 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 adds 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.

The Croatian agriculture ministry has recently come under fire at home for having signed an €800 million contract with the external consulting company Ernst&Young to drafting the SWOT analysis for the strategic plan despite the institution employs more than 700 workers.

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.

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.

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.

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. Denmark should in particular consider high diversity landscape features in intensively managed agricultural landscapes, the Commission said, and improve the use of energy along the food supply chain. Denmark should also promote generational renewal while paying attention to the gender imbalance.

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.

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 Baltic Sea. The country should continue efforts in promoting the generational renewal, and promote and invest in the expansion of broadband in rural and remote areas.

Commission recommendations: France must improve the resilience of the agricultural sector against market and climatic events. The Commission commends previous efforts to improve the distribution of support in France and say current efforts built on by continuing the internal convergence process. Sectoral initiatives and cooperation, especially in sectors with lower or decreasing competitiveness, and cross-sectoral cooperation at territorial level should help enhance the sector. To strengthen efforts to reduce GHG emissions, France should support strengthen advisory services and promoting on-farm GHG assessment tools to improve energy and climate performance. France should also promote a transition to high environmental value production systems such as low-input, agro-forestry, agro-ecological and biodiversity-friendly approaches, including integrated pest management, and enhance organic farming. The country should improve animal welfare, especially for pigs and laying hens, and the transport of animals. It should also take advantage of the relatively high share of young farmer population, and focus on increasing the attractiveness of rural areas and strengthening the AKIS to enhance the sustainability performance and competitiveness of the agricultural sector and related activities. 

In June, the German Bundestag passed a legislative package to implement the new CAP at the national level 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.

Commission recommendations: Germany needs to work on both the resilience and the viability of farms located in areas facing natural constraints. Actions to decrease the impacts of extreme weather events, further strengthen water efficiency in farming, and invest in flood prevention and protection should be facilitated in affected regions. The EU executive also asked to reduce the use and risk of pesticides by giving priority to non-chemical pest management practices and ensuring the uptake of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

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. 

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.

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.

In April, Italy’s agriculture ministry set up a national coordination group bringing together all the country’s main agriculture stakeholders in order to contribute together to the preparation of the national strategic plan.

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.

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.

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.

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 opporunities in farming. 

 

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.

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.

Commission recommendations: Poland should aim to increase competitiveness and productivity of the agrifood sector through support for investments and financial instruments, and improve the viability of farms through ensuring a fairer and better targeting of income support by reducing income gaps between different farm sizes. There needs to be a “rebalancing the power in the food supply chain”. Local small and medium size processors should be recognised as important players to strengthen the position of farmers and to balance bargaining power in the supply chain, and support schemes should also be used to encourage farmers to develop and participate in short supply chains, and in the production of high value added products, to attract and educate consumers. The country should focus on reducing emissions related to fertiliser use on soils and avoiding carbon release from organic soils, including peatlands, and on better livestock management (ruminants), including “sizeable efforts” to significantly reduce the use of antimicrobials in farming. Reducing water scarcity by significantly stepping up support for nature-based solutions and appropriate land management practices should be a key aim, and the country should significantly step up efforts to halt the decrease and stimulate an increase in the area under organic farming and demand for organic products in Poland. The country should also promote employment, growth, social inclusion and local development in rural areas, by addressing the age unbalance in rural areas and in the agriculture sector through investments targeted to attract young people, e.g. through further developing broadband capacities in rural areas.

 

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.

Romania is demanding that the EU Council improves the text of regulation for drafting the CAP national strategic plans. One of the requirements refers to the provision on irrigation which, in the opinion of the Romanian government, “must be improved from the perspective of eligibility in order to make investments in secondary infrastructure, as requested in the council of ministers.”

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.

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. 

 

 

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.

Spanish strategic plan is being carried out by the agriculture ministry in coordination with the ecological transition ministry, the autonomous communities, and agricultural and environmental organisations. The process started already in January 2019 and is currently in its final stage with the aim of being submitted to the Commission between November and December of this year.

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.

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.

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 are set to forward draft strategic plans to Brussels by the end of 2021. These plans are then due to be presented during 2022 and will, in principle, be implemented 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.

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.

The CAP reform is currently in the process of being ratified after a deal was struck between negotiators back in June. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the reform during either the October or November plenary session. See here for the final 4-column document comparing the proposal from the Commission alongside the proposed amendments from the Parliament and Council together with the draft agreement. 

On 1 June 2018, the European Commission presented legislative proposals on the CAP beyond 2020.

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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The content of this page and articles represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

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