This article is part of our special report Post-2020 CAP: simplification and investments.
Romania has made significant progress in the past decade thanks to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds and it opposes potential cuts in the post-2020 farming budget, Agriculture Minister Petre Daea told EURACTIV Romania in an interview.
Daea emphasised the increased growth in the local rural communities with the help of EU funding and said the CAP has been a real success because “exceptional progress” in terms of technical capabilities and agricultural production has been achieved.
Romania managed to absorb almost all the CAP funds and the government is pushing to keep both pillars of the policy [direct payments to farmers and rural development], following the good results of the National Rural Development Programme.
“The CAP has helped Romania. The country has taken huge leaps. Some years ago, we could not even speak about farm lanes, and now we can find asphalted roads among agricultural fields, links between farms. There are extraordinary production facilities which can compete with any other within the EU,” Daea said.
He emphasised the significance of the rural development programme, whose general aim is to boost rural growth, saying that there is still a lot to do before the country can begin catching up with other areas of Europe.
Regarding the first pillar, the direct aid, the minister said the government wanted to maintain a high pace of distributing payments to farmers. “The Romanian people are ingenious and hard-working and if they get help, they’ll use it,” the minister emphasised.
In the past, local authorities have faced some difficulties in absorbing all available EU funds, which resulted in some delays in payments, but Daea said the situation has now improved.
“We’ve managed to do it so far and we will try to continue doing it so that farmers get the subsidies at the right time and investors in rural development projects can get the money needed for their investments in due time,” he said.
The CAP is the largest chapter of the EU budget, representing almost 40% of the total funding. The funds invested over the years have transformed the EU in one of the largest food producers in the world with annual exports of more than €130 billion.
But following the Brexit vote, the UK, a net contributor to the EU budget, will leave the Union and its departure will have a direct impact on the financing of EU policies after 2020.
The EU has already announced new priorities such as migration, security and defence that will need to be financed in the next multiannual financial framework. In this context, EU leaders are mulling a potential realignment of EU’s main policies – the agricultural and the cohesion policies.
Many EU politicians, including Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, are pleading for an increase in member states’ budget contributions in order to avoid having to cut the cohesion policy and the CAP budgets. However, several member states are reluctant to raise their national contribution.
The Commission plans to present its budget proposal on 2 May.
Support for young farmers
Romania is opposing both a reduction in the CAP budget and the capping of farming subsidies, as the ministry of agriculture wants to support all sizes of agricultural holdings, the minister said.
The country has the largest number of agricultural holdings in Europe – more than 3.4 million, which is about a third of EU’s farms. But 99% of these are subsistence and semi-subsistence farms, which on average have only 2 hectares of land.
Like many other EU countries, Romania is suffering from an ageing population in the farming sector.
The average age of Romanian farmers is 50 years or more, representing more than 40% of the total farming population, and the country ranks second in the EU, just behind Portugal, in terms of farmers’ age. Getting young people back to farms is, therefore, one of the agriculture ministry’s main priorities.
Petre Daea noted, though, that fewer young people have left the country lately and the programmes financed by the government and the EU have helped some Romanians start a farming business.
“One can see the results of those programs, namely a stabilisation of workforce in rural areas. Everyone is granted a chance to work in Romania, sell their products and be profitable. It’s a win-win situation for all,” the minister pointed out.
The authorities are trying to encourage more young people to move from towns to villages, but more efforts should be made.
However, Daea said he had spoken with young people who study at universities not related to farming and they showed an interest in working for their family’s farming business.
“This is very good, there is a strong interest in replacing the generations in the farming sector, and all of us employed in the field get a major satisfaction when youngsters start working in agriculture,” Daea also said.