EU risks failing to keep promise of green CAP reform
[October 12th 2011, Brussels] –The European Commission’s proposal for a new agricultural policy is failing to justify why Europeans should continue to spend billions while farmers are given few new incentives to change environmentally damaging practices, says the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). This was in reaction to today’s Commission proposal for the new common agricultural policy (CAP).
Although the proposals contain some significant green measures for the environment such as the long overdue 7% ecological focus areas (which are an essential safety net to avoid farmers overexploiting critical soil, water and biodiversity resources), the overall picture is that of no change. Earlier leaked versions in fact revealed a risk of going backwards on previous reforms by failing to ring-fence 25% of rural development expenditures for agri-environment measures, which has been avoided.
“The CAP still causes untold damage to the environment and today the Commission seems to have missed the chance to end the current situation where taxpayers are asked to pay a double bill: first for damaging subsidies and then for the clean-up”, said Faustine Defossez of EEB.
“In times of austerity, with government expenditures being slashed in all sectors of society and citizens feeling the squeeze, the European Commission should have tried to ensure that European taxpayers get a better environmental return on the vast sums they put into the CAP,” continued Defossez.
According to a study released last month by the French Environment Ministry on the water pollution impacts of farming in France, additional household spending due to cleaning up nitrogen and pesticides surpluses are estimated between 1 and 1.5 billion Euros a year. A great amount of these costs are paid by citizens, representing 7 to 12 % of average water & wastewater bills .
Environmental NGOs have repeatedly defended the CAP budget, but on the condition that farmers will be required to significantly improve the way they farm . However, the reformed CAP 2014-2020 as proposed will not contribute to preserving Europe’s natural resources like soil, water and biodiversity, thereby fatally undermining Europe’s food security. In some cases the proposal is in fact going back on previous reforms .
“This is not the CAP that European citizens are willing to pay for. It is now up to the European Parliament and member states to demonstrate that the future of this policy will not be decided by a small group of vested interests”, added Pieter de Pous, Policy Director at the EEB.
 By reintroducing the option for coupled supports for cereals (e.g. maize, which requires many chemical inputs) and by allowing a reverse shift from the second to the first pillar. Under pillar 1 farmers receive direct payment support which is 100% financed by the EU, whereas under pillar 2 farmers receive funding for clearly identified measures serving agreed policy objectives and which are co-funded by both EU and Member States.