European Parliament votes to reform agricultural policy

The outcome of the vote on March 13 surprised many, as the expected greening of the Common Agricultural Policy was turned down. 

By Isabelle Gheldolf and Mette-Sofie Holst Sommer

Wednesday 13 March the European Parliament voted on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Back in October 2011 the Commission unveiled the plans for a greener CAP, which amongst other things called for improving biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gasses and using direct payments to encourage farmers to reduce the use of fertiliser and pesticides.

But the outcome of the vote last month surprised many, as Members of Parliament (MEPs) voted to keep basic greening measures, but did not take initiative to take a step further in greening the CAP.

“We would have liked to see more direct funding towards green and organic farming in the reform,” says Morten Bonde, spokesperson for the Danish Ministry for Foods and Agriculture.

Christel Schaldemose, Danish MEP and member of the Social Democrats thinks the greening is a lost cause.

“Many member states are having financial trouble and this goes at the cost of the greening of the agricultural policy,” she says.

Sofa farmers excluded from beneficiaries

Another important decision concerning the direct payments was made at the sitting. MEPs agreed that they should be granted directly to active farmers.

So far institutions like golf clubs, scouts clubs and kindergartens in the member states can receive farming subsidies, although they have never milked a single cow or driven a tractor.

But at the vote the European Parliament agreed that the “sofa farmers” should immediately be excluded from the list of beneficiaries unless they can prove that farming contributes a substantial part of their income.

A new type of reform

When the CAP was developed in the 1950’s it was based upon the idea of providing agricultural subsidies through intervention in the market. After two world wars politicians wanted to ensure that food shortages and famine would be a remnant of the past, which is why the EU has intervened and supported the market ever since.

Since its creation, the CAP has been subjected to several reforms. The current reform is the first agricultural policy that will be made under the co-decision procedure, which means that this time the Parliament will be able to adjust the amendments of the Commission and propose their own changes.

The reform of the CAP is expected to enter into force in 2014.



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