CAP: A last-ditch effort to avert greenwashing and capitulation to agribusiness 

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

A grand coalition in the European Parliament risks undermining the promise of a new greener and fairer Common Agricultural Policy, writes Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. [Maleo/Shutterstock]

A grand coalition in the European Parliament risks undermining the promise of a new greener and fairer Common Agricultural Policy, writes Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is an independent MEP from Ireland, part of the Left group in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL).

The EU is rushing headfirst into a historic capitulation to big business on the 2021-2027 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This would be a betrayal of the environment, as humanity faces an unprecedented climate crisis; a betrayal of our farmers and rural communities; and a betrayal of workers’ rights and animal welfare.

Just over two years ago the Commission put forward its CAP proposal under the broad understanding that the current framework is not working. Until now, the vast majority of CAP money has been going to the largest farms.

Meanwhile, almost 3 million small and medium-sized farms closed down between 2005 and 2013. That’s a farm closure every three minutes. Instead of supporting rural communities, the CAP has been a vehicle for their decimation with a French farmer committing suicide every two days in 2017, and a quarter of farmers reporting no income or a deficit. It is therefore not surprising that over 2  million farmers left the sector across the EU over the last ten years.

The European Court of Auditors has found that agricultural policy has not contributed to halting the decline in biodiversity. Meanwhile, the animal farming industry in Europe emits more CO2 than all EU cars and vans combined. The vast majority of these animals are raised in appalling welfare conditions.

Understanding these shocking facts would mean overhauling the very same policies that have led to this disastrous situation, in particular ending the bias of the CAP in favour of industrial farming corporations, aligning the CAP with the European Green Deal, and the introduction of targeted policies to ensure dignified working conditions and animal welfare.

Instead, a grand coalition of the largest political groups in the European Parliament led by the right-wing EPP, working in cahoots with big agribusiness lobbies, is pushing us into a monumental surrender.

Rather than reaching across the aisle, the EPP rapporteur has closed ranks to exclude critical voices, shutting out farmers and rural communities to reinforce the industry’s destructive dominance of the sector.

Big agribusinesses have a powerful presence in Brussels decision-making. Legislators making decisions on the CAP are notorious for their long-standing conflicts of interest. Business interest groups also have privileged access to the Commission and a foothold in the Parliament inside bodies such as the recently created MEP pesticides lobby.

A key fight that could seal the greenwashing of the CAP is a last-minute EPP, S&D and RE revision of article 86 that sets out the financial allocations.

This has been kept under wraps until the last minute to avoid scrutiny and includes a provision that 40% of the spend that goes towards Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC), a vital income support, can now be counted as environmental spend, reducing the overall budget that these areas of high biodiversity can access.

Equally disingenuous and damaging is their proposal to allocate only 30% of the budget to Eco-schemes, hardly a leap forward given that this same proportion was available in the last CAP under the now failed “greening” environmental initiative.

Furthermore, a derogation was included so that member states may not have to even reach the 30% threshold, undermining the effectiveness of the Eco-schemes before they even get off the ground.

This is just one example of how EU citizens are being deceived with big buzzwords of little substance. If these plans go ahead, we will see the continuation of the slow death of rural communities and sustainable farming, the expansion of biodiversity-destroying monocultures, the lowering of food and labour standards, and the worsening of animal welfare.

This is not the new greener and fairer CAP that we were promised. In the coming days, MEPs will finally vote on the CAP 2021-2027. There is a real danger that the grand coalition led by the EPP will determine the outcome of the vote through an anti-democratic backroom deal.

They can and must be stopped. This is a chance to define the future of farming for generations to come. Farmers, rural communities, and the planet deserve much better than an EPP agribusiness sell-out.

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