Agrifood Brief: CAP super-trilogue – what’s on the menu?

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27 - CAP super-trilogue: what's on the menu?

This week: EURACTIV gives a recap on what to expect from the so-called “super-trilogue” on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, discussing what is on the menu for the meeting and the main remaining sticking points in negotiations

The EU’s agrifood sector is following the outcomes of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) super trilogue with bated breath, although the road ahead is still uphill.

In this highly unusual Agrifood brief, we’re called to carry out an extremely arduous task: talking about something that it is happening as we write.

Many expectations rest on this ‘super trilogue’, the brainchild of the Portuguese presidency, which is gathering all three of the main Parliament’s rapporteurs on the CAP dossier and the Portuguese presidency around the same table.

The hope is to settle some of the remaining sticking points with a view of reaching the sorely sought-after agreement by May.

This timeline is crucial and the clock is ticking, as Portuguese agricultural minister Maria do Ceu Antunes reminded journalists at a press conference after the EU Agrifish Council on Tuesday (23 March).

The super meeting will close approximately at 7 pm on Friday (26 March) and a press conference has been convened at 7.30, shortly after the publication of these lines.

During the week, the EU’s agricultural Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski offered an optimistic look at the state of negotiations, reiterating that the working atmosphere between negotiators seemed “very good”.

“And I am confident that we will be able to present a final deal in May with a very good outcome for the CAP,” he said.

But despite the optimism shown by some quarters on the eve of the super trilogue, a number of sticking points remain, putting into question whether negotiators will be able to wrap up the CAP.

Negotiators are still wide apart on a number of cornerstone issues as crunch time on CAP talks rapidly approaches. Which ones? It is enough to look at the menu of the meeting to have a handle on this.

As a starter, one of the main bones of contention has been put on the agenda: the new delivery model.

As is no secret, the Commission’s proposal to shifting the CAP to make payments correlated with performance. This is based on nine objectives that need to be pursued by member states together with a set of common output and result indicators.

The assessment of farmers’ performance proposed by the Commission is considered cumbersome by the Parliament as it could lead to unnecessary burdens on national administration.

During the negotiations, MEPs tried to keep performance and compliance as two different, but complementary, key goals in a bid to ease the red tape on performance monitoring.

The Portuguese presidency has proposed a 2-year performance framework to meet the requests of MEPs, with the suspension of payments that can only be done every second year following the performance review, although performance is monitored every year.

The main course to be sampled by the negotiators is a mixed bag, featuring discussions on horizontal regulation and strategic plans.

The tricky definition of active/genuine farmer was the house speciality, a crucial step towards better and fairer distribution of direct payments.

This definition is one of the most controversial pending issues for promoting efficient spending in the next CAP, as it defines access to funding.

The problem arose since in the past money often did not go to those who actually farm the land, but rather to (usually wealthy) land-owners.

The same goes with other definitions, such as what makes a young farmer, a small farmer or a new farmer.

For dessert, negotiators were treated to the exception crisis measure and other outstanding points in the Common Market Organisation (CMO) file, washed down with all the wine issues, including digital labelling, the authorisation of American grapes and the duration of the authorisation scheme for vine plantings until 2045.

Time will tell to see how well this heavy meal went down with negotiators. It seems unlikely, however, they have managed to eat up the feast that was on the table.

(G.F and N.F)

Stories of the week

EU official: Imposing animal welfare standards on imports would be WTO compliant
It would be wise to impose the equivalent standards of animal welfare on meat imports coming into the EU, according to a top EU official, who said this would be compliant with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, provided it was based on “ethical grounds”. Natasha Foote has the story.

Organic food ‘healthier’ says agri Commissioner as EU launches new organic plan
Organic food is “healthier” than its chemically produced counterparts, EU Agricultural Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told journalists at an event to mark the launch of the EU’s long-awaited organic action plan on Thursday (25 March). Natasha Foote has more.

New report reiterates there is no East-West divide in food quality
A new study on food quality has found detectable differences between European products but said they were not correlated with geography, lending weight to the idea that there is no East-West divide in food quality discrimination in Europe. Read more.

RED II: EU Commission can’t see the wood for the trees, analysts warn
The revision of the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II) as part of the new Green Deal should recalibrate the legislative initiatives which have so far failed to decarbonise Europe’s transport sector, stakeholders have said. Sarantis Michalopoulos has the story.

French mosques fear slaughter policy change is ban on halal chicken
Several major French mosques have expressed concern that a proposed ban on the slaughter of poultry without first stunning the animals would effectively lead to a ban on halal chicken, while the agriculture ministry says this concern is unfounded. EURACTIV France reports.

French dairy farmers sour after milk origin labelling scrapped
A decision by France’s top court to annul the obligation to label the origin of milk has provoked outrage in France. Dairy farmers and politicians are particularly sour about the move, calling it an “unacceptable step backwards.” EURACTIV France reports.

Don’t miss: EURACTIV’s Special Report on ‘Sustainable farming ambitions: between the CAP and the Green Deal’, where the EURACTIV network takes a closer look at the relationship between the Green Deal and the CAP across seven different member states as the EU approaches a crucial moment in the final talks on the CAP reform.

News from the bubble

CAP corner:  Protestors from WeMoveEurope, Extinction Rebellion and BirdLife Europe occupied the roundabout in front of the European Berlaymont building on Wednesday (24 March) demanding Commission President von der Leyen to withdraw the CAP because it is not in line with the European Green Deal. “About 80% of subsidies is transferred to 20% of the biggest producers. Is this a fair and just system? The current CAP conserves a system, where subsidies funded by all of us, European taxpayers, land in the pockets of big producers for whom the financial profit is the only important factor”,” Dominik Kulczynski from Extinction Rebellion pointed out in a speech at the protest. So far, more than 157,000 people have signed a petition demanding President von der Leyen to withdraw this deal and propose a new agriculture policy.

Geographical indications: The European Commission has approved the application for registration of “Vasi vadkörte pálinka” from Hungary and “Pistacchio di Raffadali” in the Register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). “Vasi vadkörte pálinka” is a brandy produced from wild pears in western Hungary, while the latter is a pistachio variety grown in Italy.

New transparency rules: The 2019 regulation on transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain will eneter into force from 27 March, bolstering EU’s food safety agency (EFSA) ability to carry out its risk assessment in accordance with the highest transparency standard. More information here.

Agrifood news from the Capitals

CROATIA
Bolstered by its own commercial production of seeds, Croatia has become one of the top EU countries for organic agricultural production. But organic farmers now fear that the introduction of a new Seed Act may jeopardise this. EURACTIV Croatia reports.BULGARIA
Family farming is no easy task, but one young Bulgarian couple has shown that sustainable farming can be a successful business venture, while also helping to revive one of the EU’s poorest regions. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.UK
UK food and drink exports to the European Union dropped by 75% in January, the first month of life outside the EU’s single market, according to data published by the UK’s Food and Drink Federation. Read more. (Benjamin FoxEURACTIV.com)

SPAIN
The European Green Deal offers opportunities and challenges to Spanish farmers, stakeholders have warned, highlighting that Spain needs more support in the transition towards a more sustainable model of agriculture. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports.

POLAND
The Supreme Audit Office (NIK) evaluated the activities of institutions responsible for counteracting drought in agriculture, publishing a report on Monday (22 March) to coincide with world water day. The problem of drought, which used to occur every few years, now occurs almost every year. Experts agree – in order to counteract water shortages, it is necessary to invest in the so-called small retention. (Mateusz Kucharczyk | EURACTIV.pl)

ROMANIA
Farmers that grow certain crops, including peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes, are eligible for aid of up to €2,000 per 1,000 square meters of protected crops in a new programme, which has a total budget of 150 million lei (about €30 million), according to agriculture minister Adrian Oros. The aid will replace a support program aimed at tomato growers that ran for four years, but is considered a failure by the current minister. On the other hand, a three-year program to support garlic farming is set to continue in 2021, the last year of the program, with a maximum budget of 15 million lei. The program has proved a success, with the number of beneficiaries growing three-times in 2020 compared with the previous year, while the areas included in the program reached 1,325 hectares, from 360 ha in 2019. The amount granted to farmers will be a maximum of €3,000 per hectare, but it needs to be lower than €20,000 per beneficiary over the three-year period. (Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro)

GERMANY 
Germany is considering ways to fund an increased ambition in animal welfare standards, including a new levy on animal welfare, but the idea has raised eyebrows among German farmers, who are concerned they will be exposed to unfair competition. EURACTIV Germany reports. (EURACTIV.de)

FRANCE
Farmers’ suicides are no longer a taboo subject in France, but the French government should do more to tackle the issue, according to a report published last week by the Economic Affairs Committee of the French Senate. The last statistics from 2015 suggest that on average, two French farmers take their life every day. The senatorial report identifies low revenues and agribashing as major difficulties faced by farmers. The latter often felt “abandoned by society”, the senators report. In order to improve the situation, the report names 63 recommendations on how the government should take action. Proposed measures include a decent revenue for farmers, a lightening of administrative burdens, quicker and easier access to state aid and better measures to accompany farmers in difficulty as well as close relatives of victims. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.fr)

IRELAND
The ‘All-Ireland Pollinator Plan’ 2021-2025 was unveiled this week by Green Party Ministers Malcolm Noonan and Pippa Hackett. Billed as a “stronger, more ambitious roadmap”, the plan aims to help biodiversity by engaging communities, local authorities, farmers, schools and businesses to take action for nature, reports Agriland (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)

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