Spain wants to set a cap on CAP subsidies

The minister would like to reduce the subsidies allocated to the Spanish provinces under the previous CAP and to initiate discussions with the 17 autonomous communities on whether there is a need to maintain their historical rights or not. EPA-EFE/EMILIO NARANJO [EPA-EFE/EMILIO NARANJO]

Spain’s socialist Agriculture Minister Luis Planas has revived the debate on CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) subsidies, as he intends to set a cap on aid, which will range between €60,000 and €100,00 per farm. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reports.

On 24 February, the Spanish government approved urgent measures to combat the agricultural crisis and the sector’s sinking prices.

Agriculture Minister Planas announced these measures on Tuesday (25 February) at a press conference and during a special briefing after the Spanish Council of Ministers meeting.

At Monday’s Congress of Deputies, the minister explained that the EU would transfer responsibility for establishing these caps to the member states. And for Spain, these could range between €60,000 and €100,000, according to current proposals.

The Spanish bid is, indeed, in line with the proposed cap to direct payments for large beneficiaries included in the current negotiating box of EU long-term budget proposal, which has to be approved yet.

In the budget proposal of Council President Charles Michel, direct payments are capped at €100,000 per farm, a figure similar to the one suggested in both the original Commission and Finnish presidency proposals.

Planas said the labour costs faced by the farms would play a “decisive role” in setting these thresholds. Farms with very high labour costs will see their subsidies preserved.

“This is a way of promoting agricultural employment through the CAP,” he stressed.

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Spanish farmers have scaled up their demonstrations this week, with actions throughout the country in demand of fair prices and sustainable solutions for the country’s agricultural sector, EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro has reported.

Demonstrations are now in …

To “simplify the programme”, the minister also hopes that by the middle of the EU’s next budget period (in 2024 or 2025), the measures will be implemented gradually, according to each person’s resources, and follow the income tax model.

In particular, the minister would like to reduce the subsidies allocated to the Spanish provinces under the previous CAP and to initiate discussions with the 17 autonomous communities on whether there is a need to maintain their historical rights or not.

Planas is also seeking to establish a clear definition of what constitutes a “real farmer”.

Finally, he defends the implementation of adequate economic systems to modernise agriculture and make it more sustainable, through practices such as crop rotation.

Planas wants to set up a specific subsidy program for olive oil within the Common Market Organisation (CMO) for agricultural products, which is the CAP’s first pillar.

He also strives to ensure that Spain’s regions, called Autonomous Communities, retain their full management capacity in the second pillar on rural development.

'Burdensome administration’ means young farmers are missing out on EU subsidies 

Young farmers accessing land via non-conventional contracts are eligible for EU subsidies, according to the European Commission. But in practice, burdensome administrative constraints often outweighs any financial advantage, meaning that landowners are cashing in while young farmers are missing out.

More ambition, less stigma

At last week’s EU summit, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez asked his counterparts to be “more ambitious” in the negotiations on the bloc’s next seven-year budget, without “stigmatising” the CAP or the Cohesion policy.

These central chapters, which Spain has been pushing hard for in the EU budget, have, in his view, greatly helped strengthen the single market.

After two days of talks on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the 2021-2027 period, Sanchez made no secret of his disappointment at the failure of the negotiations.

He said that none of the proposals put forward by the European Commission since 2018 are sufficient for Spain, as they do not take into account the “urgencies” or the “roadmap” that the European institutions themselves have set.

In this sense, he said the EU-27 must pay attention to the strategies and policies that the European Parliament and the Commission intend to put in place in the coming years when setting the budget. That is because these two institutions know the programmes and are best placed to respond to the EU’s needs, according to Sanchez.

“We are always talking about doing things better, but you cannot do more with fewer resources”, the Spanish prime minister complained, noting that each proposal put forward so far foresaw a reduction in the budget.

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Spain’s agri-food sector fears the negative impact of Brexit, in particular for sensitive and key export products like cheese, red wines, and olive oil, also under pressure by US trade tariff measures, EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro reported.

UK market is essential …

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Gerardo Fortuna]

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