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.

National plan on its way for approval: The Austrian government has finalised and adopted its national strategic plan and is now submitting it to the European Commission, as conservative agricultural minister Elisabeth Köstinger and the Green’s spokesperson on the topic, Olga Voglauer, announced on 22 December. A proposal of the national plan had already been presented in November 2020, followed by a series of public consultations during the course of 2021.

Key points: One key decision set out in the plan is to continue having a separate support measure for organic farming via the CAP’s agri-environment measures. While preparing the plan, the Köstinger had considered scrapping the measure and integrating  organic farming support into more general programmes. However, this was met with fierce backlash from the country’s large organic sector, which might explain why the minister has done a U-turn on the matter.

Show me the money: Austria will also distribute funds more evenly by capping support for big farms at €100,000 and shifting 10% of direct payments to small farms. Around 3% of funds will be used to support young farmers.

Reactions: Georg Strasser, president of the national farmers’ association (Bauernbund) welcomed the plans, saying that CAP funds were “money well spent”. The measures foreseen in the plan would benefit not only farmers, but all Austrians by ensuring affordable food products and flourishing rural areas, he told the Standard. Environmentalists, however, were less impressed. Brigitte Reisenberger from conservation NGO Global 2000, for example, said the plan was not ambitious enough when it comes to pesticide reduction, fading out glyphosate, and insect protection.

No transposition: Despite the finalisation of the strategic plan, Austria has not yet transposed its plans into legislation, as there is no national law for the implementation of the new CAP. According to the government, the parliamentary process to adjust the relevant national legislation is set to be launched during the first half of 2022. This will include a reform of the ÖPUL, Austria’s agri-environmental programme which also regulates the support for environmental measures and rural development via the CAP’s second pillar, as well as other laws.

‘High pressure’: According to the agricultural ministry, the country is also working “at high pressure” to flesh out the contents of the strategic plan in more detail through directives and to set up a digital platform via which CAP payments will be administered. In 2025, moreover, the country plans to start evaluating the effectiveness of the new funding structure. 

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. More details on the content of the plan (in German) can be found here.

Belgium gears up to submit plan: After Belgium was one of the 9 member states that missed the end of year deadline, the Belgian agricultural ministry informed EURACTIV on Monday (17 January) that the Walloon government has “just validated in first reading the orientations and the distribution of budgetary means ensuring the implementation of the CAP for the period 2023 to 2027”. These will enable the implementation of all the measures set out in the Walloon Strategic Plan and the complete plan “will be submitted to the Government in the next few days and must be submitted to the European Commission as soon as possible”. More information on the Walloon plan can be found here. Meanwhile, the Flemish plan will be submitted “as soon as possible” and the decision will be taken at the new political level, the ministry added. 

Two for the price of one: Belgium will 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. 

Mixed reviews: A new report analysing the CAP strategic plans, produced by NGOs BirdLife Europe, EEB and the WWF European Policy Office, has offered a mixed conclusion about Belgium’s plans. While the NGOs experts looked favourably on several of the eco-schemes outlined in the Belgium (Flanders)  plan, including plans to maintain organic farming and support annual buffer strips, it notes that much is still unknown for the Wallonian plan. Meanwhile, the campaign groups reserved criticism for a number of Belgian eco-schemes across both plans, including on precision agriculture, which they point out has no benchmarking of fertiliser use or target for reduction, and animal management.

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.

 

Aiming for February submission: Bulgaria will be ready with its national strategic plan in February, according to Agriculture Minister Ivan Ivanov. The Balkan country has a new regular government, which took office late last year and has to catch up on a number of projects. The government is currently holding meetings with representatives of all farmers’ organisations to clarify the details of the National Plan.

Information campaign planned: Following the final preparation of the strategic plan at the end of February, a campaign will be organised to inform small producers about the environmental standards of the EU Green Deal.

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.

Favourable reception, but room for improvement: A new report analysing the CAP strategic plans, produced by NGOs BirdLife Europe, EEB and the WWF European Policy Office, has offered a fairly favourable opinion on Bulgaria’s plan so far, listing 6 out of the 10 eco-schemes outlined by the Bulgarian plan as it currently stands as “good” – i.e., likely to deliver. However, the NGOs maintain there is still some room for improvement, notably on increased crop diversification and conservation and restoration of soil potential/fertility. 

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.

NGOs unimpressed with what’s on offer: A new report analysing the CAP strategic plans, produced by NGOs BirdLife Europe, EEB and the WWF European Policy Office, has marked all 6 of the eco-schemes currently outlined in Croatia’s plan as either bad/ concerning or “ok – but in need of improving”. Among the eco-schemes listed as “bad” include one on ‘intensified diversity of agricultural land’ and another on using manure on arable land. 

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.

Behind schedule: Czechia is one of the 9 member states that missed the end of year deadline for submitting their national strategic plan. 

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: 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.

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

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.

Mixed reactions: Reactions to the French NSP are far from unanimous. While the main French farmers’ syndicate (FNSEA) calls the French plan “acceptable”, the French organic farmers’ union (FNAB) sees it as a “national strategic disappointment”. According to FNSEA’s first vice-president Arnaud Rousseau, France’s NSP strikes a “balance” between the necessity to preserve farmers’ incomes and developing a more sustainable agriculture. On the contrary, for the national secretary of the FNAP Loïc Madeline, the French strategy is marked by “immobilism” and will not allow to put France on the path towards a full-scale agroecological transition. To learn more, see here.

Calls for rejection: Green MEPs have called on the European Commission to reject France’s national strategy plan. The French NSP “will not allow the French agriculture to contribute to the European Green Deal”, the French Greens in the European Parliament claim. In a letter sent to the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, on Monday (17 January), the MEPs thus plead to not approve the French NSP. As France, the EU’s biggest agriculture and CAP beneficiary, has just taken over the presidency of the Council of the EU, the Commission’s arbitrations “will necessarily be watched with great interest by the other Member States”. The French NSP was thus “of crucial European importance”. However, the French strategic plan was not only “incompatible” with the European Green Deal, but also in contradiction with EU objectives set out in the European Water Framework and Nitrate directives, the signatories claim. “The ball is in your court now,” they stressed, urging Commissioner Wojciechowski not to compromise the “political pillar of its mandate”, the European Green Deal.

Public consultation launch: The French ministry of Agriculture launched a public consultation on its National Strategic Plan on Friday (12 November). As the ministry states on its website, “France is fully in line with the desire expressed by the European Commission and the European co-legislators […] for a CAP that aims to stabilise agricultural incomes and guarantee food supplies for Europeans at reasonable prices and to support the ecological transition of the agricultural and forestry sectors”. French citizens, communities, public institutions, NGOs and CAP beneficiaries have until 12 December to share their opinion on the French NSP for 2023-27.

“New milestone” reached: 99 % of French CAP beneficiaries (295500 farmers), have received the balance of aid from the 1st pillar of the CAP and the Compensatory Allowance for Natural Handicaps (ICHN) for 2021. While the 2015 and 2016 campaigns were marked by “significant” delays in the payment of CAP aid to farmers (more than a year in some cases), this year’s figures show a “historic achievement both in terms of amounts and the share of beneficiaries paid at this time of year”, according to the French ministry of Agriculture. “A new milestone has been reached in the payment of Common Agricultural Policy aids,” French Agrifood minister Julien Denormandie commented. Given their importance for the economic viability of many farms, “the Government has made the acceleration of their payments a priority since 2017”, he said.  On 13 December, the French government disbursed €2,12 billion to farmers, for a total amount of €7,17 billion for 2021. Another payment is planned for 22 December, and remaining balances of aids are to be distributed in the first trimester of 2022.

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. 

On the naughty list: Germany is one of the member states that have not submitted their strategic plan yet. However, the country aims to finalise the plan by February, agriculture minister Cem Özdemir said during a conference on 18 January.

Why behind schedule? The country’s process of preparing its strategic plan was complicated by a change of government in early December. However, asked by EURACTIV Germany about the reasons for the delay, an agriculture ministry spokesperson did not mention ongoing revisions by the new minister, Cem Özdemir. Instead, the spokesperson said the fact that reform talks in Brussels were concluded “later than expected” had led to “major delays in the national implementation process”, adding that the different federal provinces have not yet had the chance to adapt their plans to two federal directives passed in mid-December. However, the spokesperson said the ministry and regions are “working at high pressure” to submit the plan shortly while ensuring planning security for farmers.

‘Failed start’ for new minister: In a joint statement, five conservative MEPs, including head of the agriculture committee Norbert Lins and CAP Strategic Plans rapporteur Peter Jahr criticised the delay as “incomprehensible,” saying it marked a “failed start” for the new minister.

Too tight for changes: The national laws and directives that set out the country’s reform implementation had been prepared and passed by former conservative minister Julia Klöckner. But while the new ‘traffic light’ government had vowed to still “review” parts of the strategic plan in its coalition agreement, a ministry spokesperson said in December the timeframe was “too tight” to make significant changes.

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 timeline (in German) of how Germany is advancing with its plan here.

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. 

Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food presents its plan. Last week, the Ministry of Rural Development and Food presented the National Strategic Plan for the new CAP to the Greek Parliament. The European funds for the period 2023-2027 will amount to €13.4 billion. Within the framework of the plan, two pillars are envisioned: Pillar A (direct payments) and Pillar B (rural development programmes). Direct payments include – among others: basic aid (€4.39 billion) to active farmers who meet certain criteria, specific aid for cotton (€920 million), as well as optional eco-shemes (€2.1 billion) – such as the promotion of agroforestry and the maintenance of organic farming and livestock farming methods. Rural development programmes include: agri-environment and climate actions (€779.36 million), setting up of young farmers (€590 million), and knowledge and IT transfer (€145 million). “We are strengthening the investment pillar of the CAP, prioritising the modernisation of the primary sector with digital and green investments. In addition, we are creating a new generation of farmers, promoting the age renewal of the sector,” said Greek agriculture minister Spilios Livanos.
 
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. 

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.

Behind schedule: According to sources, Hungary is one of the member states that have expressed difficulties in meeting the CAP strategic plan deadline. This has lead to some suggestions that the deadline should be pushed back, while the other member states inquired whether parts of the plan could be submitted later than 1 January, or updated at a later date.

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.

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.”

Turning nice words into action: How has Ireland used the flexibility of the CAP legal framework post-2022 to design a fairer CAP Strategic Plan? A new policy analysis, researched and written by Matteo Metta for the Left group in the European Parliament (GUE), assesses fairness in Ireland’s CAP submission. Check it out on ARC2020.

Protests: A number of Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) protests took place during October 2021 in the south of the country in response to the announcement of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) strategic plan funding allocations after they were denounced for being the “single biggest threat” to farming livelihoods, according to Agriland. Speaking at one of the protests, the president of the IFA, Tim Cullinan, said that buried behind “all the hype and big headline figures” in the CAP plan announcement lies “savage cuts to a cohort of farmers”. “This comes on top of farmers being hit with climate targets without any impact assessment of the consequences for individual farmers or rural Ireland,” he pointed out. 

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.

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

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 for €3 billion for new risk management tools.

Main aims: The plan aims to ensure a more equitable income aid system, including a significant rebalancing in the allocation of direct payment resources towards the benefit of intermediate rural areas and rural areas with development problems, including mountain areas and
some inland hilly areas, as well as the strengthening the competitiveness of supply chains, with the aim of improving the positioning
of farmers along the value chain. It also aims to guarantee greater equity and safety in working conditions.

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”.

Work in process: In April 2021, 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. The process of drafting the Italian strategic plan officially started on 8 September with a meeting that involved institutional, social and economic actors. According to the Italian agriculture minister Stefano Patuanelli, the work carried out by the group in recent weeks has been focused on the assessment of what the sector needs and on the so-called ‘green architecture’ of the new CAP. “Eco-schemes are the most innovative element in the green architecture of the new CAP and represent a delicate issue, as they affect the direct payments mechanism, which for decades has been an essential element for the subsistence of many farms,” the minister pointed out.

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.

Behind schedule: According to sources, Latvia is one of the member states that have expressed difficulties in meeting the CAP strategic plan deadline. This has lead to some suggestions that the deadline should be pushed back, while the other member states inquired whether parts of the plan could be submitted later than 1 January, or updated at a later date.

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.

Behind schedule: According to sources, Lithuania is one of the member states that have expressed difficulties in meeting the CAP strategic plan deadline. This has lead to some suggestions that the deadline should be pushed back, while the other member states inquired whether parts of the plan could be submitted later than 1 January, or updated at a later date.

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.

Successful submission, despite previous concerns: Poland’s government has finally accepted its CAP national strategic plan on the 14th of December 2021, and submitted it to the European Commission roughly a week later, on the 22nd of December. This is despite the fact that EURACTIV was informed back in October that Poland was among the member states that have warned that they may miss the deadline entirely

What’s in the plan? Some of the main focuses are sustainable development within polish farmsteads, improving living standards in rural areas and guaranteeing long-term food security whilst maintaining competitiveness in the sector. It also includes 16 eco-schemes alongside other measures to make polish agriculture more eco-friendly.

Reactions from farming community: Many farmers are concerned that introducing the new plan would mean they get fewer subsidies in turn for more obligations, but their concerns very often stem not from the provisions of the national plan alone, but from scepticism towards the Green New Deal as a whole, a topic which the EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski has discussed extensively with polish farmers on Twitter. Many farmers voice their disapproval for the idea of eco-schemes. Meanwhile, the former minister of agriculture, Jan Ardanowski, has also criticised both the Green New Deal and the national plan for being ill-adapted to Polish agriculture. The reception of the plan could – at best – be described as mixed.

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.

Behind schedule: According to sources, Portugal is one of the member states that have expressed difficulties in meeting the CAP strategic plan deadline. This has lead to some suggestions that the deadline should be pushed back, while the other member states inquired whether parts of the plan could be submitted later than 1 January, or updated at a later date.

Romania predictably delayed. Romania is one of the EU countries that has not yet submitted its plan. This came as no surprise considering that the minister requested a delay in the last AGRIFISH council. Officially, the reason given is the late adoption of the CAP and the need to adapt the national plan to the final version of the policy. Consultations with farmers are planned to start this week (commencing 17 January), while the calendar of the adoption has not yet been announced. However, when the minister initially asked for the delay, he spoke of a two-month period.

Less than impressed: Romania has previously demanded 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.

Lagging behind: Despite the fact that the Slovak ministry of agriculture told EURACTIV Slovakia back in October that the country will submit a CAP strategic plan to the Commission within the required deadline, Slovakia was one of the 9 member states that missed the end of year deadline. However, the agriculture ministry opened a national consultation for its national strategic plan on 4 January 2022, but stakeholders have criticised the fact that they will only have five days to comment on the 1,000-page document before it is sent to the Commission for approval, the date for which is still currently unknown. More in Slovak at EURACTIV.sk.

No movement: As of Monday (17 January), Slovakia has still yet to submit its strategic plan and it is not even known when it will be sent to Brussels. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has announced that it wants to submit the strategic plan to the European Commission by the end of January at the latest. The document has yet to be approved by the government. This week (commencing 17 January), the ministry is supposed to evaluate the comments that experts have made to the plan in the national consultation process.

Main ambitions: The main goal of the strategic plan is to streamline and increase the food production of the Slovak agricultural sector. Self-sufficiency in the sector has for long been one of the hottest agri-food-food related topic, since it is one of the lowest in the EU. The Ministry wants to achieve this by better targeting of direct payments to selected sectors of animal and speciality crop production, smaller farms, farms with a larger number of employees and young farmers.

Reactions: So far, large agri organisations have expressed concerns over the capping of direct payments and redistributive payment. Smaller farmers, on the other hand, find the capping too benevolent. Eco-schemes are also a cause for concern, with farmers worrying they will have to do more environmental measures for less money. However, environmental activists are more or less satisfied with what is currently on the table, even though they have called for a stricter set-up of eco-schemes to better protect biodiversity and soil.

Increased support for small and medium-sized farms: Ján Pokrivčák, head of the Institute of Agricultural Policy, who is responsible for the preparation of the Slovak CAP strategic plan, has pledged more support for small and medium farmers in an interview for EURACTIV Slovakia. According to him, Slovakia’s low food self-sufficiency (less than 50%) is the result of the “management of large farms”. The structure of the Slovak agri-food sector is dominated by large agricultural enterprises. The concentration of direct payments in Slovakia is the highest among the EU member states – up to 94% of all direct payments end up in the accounts of 20% of farms. To address this, the Ministry of Agriculture, therefore, wants to redirect a bigger part of the payments to small and medium-sized farms. From 2023, it plans to introduce both a cap of €100,000 on direct payments and a redistributive payment. “We believe that if this regulation passes through, large farms will adapt to it by improving the structure of production in order to increase employment,“ he said, adding that small farms have a “high added value”.(Marián Koreň | EURACTIV.sk)

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.

Just in the nick of time: The Spanish strategic plan for the national implementation of the CAP was submitted to the European Commission for approval last 29th December, according to EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro. 

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.

Focus on young and female farmers: Aid for young farmers will also be increased. The plan introduces a 15 % for women entering farming and livestock farming, as well as sectorial interventions worth €62 million, with programmes for fruit and vegetables, wine, beekeeping and, for the first time, extensive olive grove.

Small farmers in the spotlight: The plan also reduces to the number of agronomic regions of the national division for the basic payment to 20. Meanwhile, a new aid will be allocated to support small and medium size farms. There will be a capping of 100,000 euros per farm, witch after discounting labor and social security costs can be increased to €200,000. Digitalisation will be a priority in the Spanish national plan too.

Reactions: Spanish farmers organisations and cooperatives are worried about the greener approach of new CAP and EU policies in general. For instance, they claim that eco-schemes will mean investments for farmers that will make aid less profitable. “A fairer CAP and a fairer strategic plan” is one of the main demands of the alliance of farmers and rural organisations “20Mrural”, promoters of a big national demonstration in Madrid in defence of the Spanish countryside.

Background: The 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. A first compromise draft of the strategic plan was filed to Spanish autonomous regions by the government back in July. Agriculture minister Luis Planas promised Spanish lawmakers that he will take an ‘inclusive’ strategic plan to Brussels by the end of the year.

Strong opposition: However, some regional farming associations are opposing the ‘Planas’ proposal deemed as ‘insulting’ and a ‘humiliation’. “In Spain, there are very different agronomic models, but we cannot have 17 plans, there is only one for the whole of the country,” replied Planas, adding that it is impossible to satisfy all the proposals coming from each community. He also stressed that the timetable ahead is quite strict if they do not want to jeopardise farmers’ ability to receive CAP aids for next 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.

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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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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