In an acknowledgement that agricultural policy has been knocked off course by prolonged deal-making, the European Commission on Thursday (18 April) announced plans for a year-long transition to give farmers and administrators time to implement the still-undecided policies.
Millions of farmers who receive direct payments under the CAP will continue to be paid under existing rules, while new regulations – included anticipated rules on environmental performance – would probably be delayed another year.
The proposal was not unexpected. Ireland’s agricultural minister, whose country holds the rotating president of the EU Council, acknowledged in January that the slow pace in approving a farm policy and the budget needed to finance it meant that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2014-2020 would not be implemented on time.
In the 37 days since the European Parliament approved its CAP proposal, no final deal has been worked out by negotiators from the Parliament, Council and European Commission.
Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolo? said extra time was needed not only to allow farmers to adopt new rules, but to give national governments – who administer payments and oversee compliance – time to adjust.
"The motto for direct payments in 2014 will be ‘existing rules, new budget’,” Ciolo? said, “because it is important that paying agencies have time to get administrative arrangements in place and guarantee the proper management of EU funds, and farmers are clear on the new rules and not pushed into something new before it's ready."
June deal foreseen
In a statement, the Commission said it was “working intensively with the European Parliament and the Council to reach a political agreement on CAP reform – and remains optimistic that this can be concluded before the end of June.”
The new regulations would still take effect on 1 January 2014, but “it is not realistic for member states to have all the necessary administrative procedures in place by the start of next year,” the statement said.
MEPs approved their draft CAP on 13 March after weeks of tumultuous debate and last-minute re-writing of proposals approved by the Parliament’s agricultural committee. It was the first time the CAP's 50-year history that the Parliament had more than a rubber-stamp vote on policy.
Leaders of Copa-Cogeca, which represent farmers and agricultural cooperatives, pressed Parliament to approve the reform, even if imperfect, to end the uncertainty for farmers and the agricultural industry.
“We do not love the compromise, but we always have to make compromises in our lives,” Gerd Sonnleitner, president of the Copa, told EURACTIV before the vote in Strasbourg. “We need a decision … It’s very important not only for agriculture, it’s important for the whole public in Europe to get a decision this week in Parliament.”