France still has mixed feelings over compromise CAP deal

"Nothing is right in this agreement," says Green MEP Benoît Biteau, calling the CAP reform currently on the table "a disaster". [EPA-EFE/JULIEN WARNAND]

After the 27 EU agriculture ministers agreed in principle on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on Monday (28 June), following months of tough negotiations, not everyone in France is happy with the result. EURACTIV France reports.

The European Parliament, Council and the Commission agreed on a compromise on the new CAP last Friday, after reaching an agreement on the thorny issue of eco-schemes – incentives for farmers to take up environmentally friendly practices – which will make up 25% of the entire CAP budget and be applied from 2025.

The provisional agreement still requires approval by the Parliament, who is expected to vote on it during the September plenary session.

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France is set to stick with the status quo when it comes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a stance widely welcomed by trade unionists but criticised by others for its lack of ambition on social and environmental matters. EURACTIV France reports.

Mixed feelings in France

On the French side, Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said the deal was a “good agreement for France”.

The compromise reached during the last trilogue “confirms the guidelines that France has defended throughout these negotiations and allows the preparation of the national strategic plan in accordance with the guidelines announced on 21 May”, said a press release from his ministry.

It added that “the environmental ambition of the CAP will be strengthened throughout the EU”.

But in the weeks leading up to the negotiations, French farmers, particularly those in the organic sector, had opposed France’s strategic plan on the CAP.

After the announcement of the compromise, French ecologists were quick to denounce the CAP’s green ambitions for not going far enough.

“Nothing is right in this agreement,” says Green MEP Benoît Biteau, calling the reform currently on the table “a disaster”.

“It is a copy of the previous CAP without imagination, without ambition and above all, without any effect on climate change,” he argued in a statement published on Friday, adding that the only option is for Parliament to reject the agreement in the second reading.

However, FNSEA, France’s main agricultural union, took a completely different view.

The content of the agreement “is anything but a status quo for farmers”, it argued in a press release, particularly regarding the eco-schemes.

According to the union, “the agreement responds to many sensitive points we had raised. The FNSEA had long been alerting governments and MEPs […] to the fact that the percentage of eco-regimes was too high”.

While the compromise provides for 25% of the CAP’s first pillar budget to be allocated to eco-schemes, it also introduces a ‘floor’ set at only 20% during the two-year ‘learning period’ until 2025, when EU countries will be able to redistribute the remaining 5% if it is not used on time.

France’s beet and wine sectors

According to the agriculture ministry, “the regulatory tools for the wine sector […] are strengthened for the future programming period.”

Not only will the system of vineyard planting authorisations be extended until 2045, but with the reform currently on the table, interprofessional wine bodies will be allowed to provide indicative prices for the sale of grapes for the production of wines with geographical indications.

The sugar beet industry, a key sector in France, was also mentioned in a joint declaration of the Council, Parliament and the Commission, which said they “recognise the difficulties faced by the sugar sector following the abolition of sugar quotas in October 2017.”

The “instability on the international markets, stagnation in consumption and a decline in sugar beet and sugar production” are a “source of concern for the sector” in the EU, the joint declaration added.

The institutions have thus promised to carry out a study in autumn 2021 to analyse the adaptation and resilience strategies of the sugar industry.

This is a thorny issue in France since the temporary reauthorisation of neonicotinoid pesticides, dubbed “bee killers” by environmentalists and banned in France and the EU since 2018, was permitted back in February 2021 to support the sugar beet industry.

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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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