Credit: European Commission

Hogan kick starts discussions on future of EU farm subsidies

You can’t please them all. But Phil Hogan certainly tried to in his new plan for the future of EU farm policy which he launched today in Brussels to a lukewarm reception across the board.

Hogan wants a ‘results-based’ plan and to give EU countries more flexibility to choose how they spend CAP money to meet environmental goals.

But environmental groups say the Commission’s ‘Communication’ paper does not sufficiently recognise the impact unsustainable agriculture practices have on our environment and climate.

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of EU Policy, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia said:

The Communication seems to be based on a state of denial. The disappearance of almost 80% of insects or half of farmland birds, or the hydrological collapse that we are seeing at the moment in Mediterranean regions of Europe, are not even featuring.

Some groups are concerned that this paper will be used as the basis for allocating tens of billions of euros of taxpayers’ money to the EU farm budget when the bloc’s finances are signed off around May 2018. Speaking to journalists in Brussels today, Hogan was reluctant to get specific on the financial aspects of CAP reform before the official EU budget talks begin.

Fasutine Bas-Defossez, Policy Manager for Agriculture and Bioenergy at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

“The Commission cannot justify spending a huge amount of EU taxpayers’ money on a new farm policy unless there is a robust accountability mechanism for farm payments to ensure Hogan’s results-based vision is converted into reality.”

Bas-Defossez also voiced concerns about the flexibility and freedom given to Member States that could see them not properly held to account on adhering to basic EU environmental protections. She added:

“Time and time again we’ve seen that when EU governments are given more flexibility they go for the lowest common denominator. If freedom and flexibility does not come hand in hand with accountability then history will repeat itself and the flexibility afforded will be nothing more than a smokescreen to systematically water down environmental ambition.”

The EEB called for a phase out of perverse payments that fund environmentally-harmful activities and to replace them with actual support earmarked for ecosystem services and a fund that helps farmers shift to sustainable farming methods. New research published last week shows that the CAP direct payments system is failing the environment, society and the economy.

Jan Plagge Vice-President of the European organic farmers’ association (IFOAM EU) said:

Today most farmers are at the mercy of large industry players in an increasingly globalised marketplace, and lack incentives to shift their businesses in a more sustainable direction. EU policymakers must use the next CAP reform to send a clear signal that sustainability must be at the heart the European agri-food sector. To this end, forthcoming legislative proposals need to make concrete efforts to fully align farm income support with the delivery of a wide range of public goods, based on reward and incentive, 100% financed by the EU budget.