Civil Society Organizations Put Pressure on EU Decision-Makers to Fulfill Environmentally Ambitious Promises of the CAP

Slow Food Europe has been among organizations calling on EU decision-makers for a new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform that is ambitious and leads a real transition towards a sustainable food system. Even though the institutional agreement on the new CAP will most probably be concluded by the new European Parliament, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) of the current Parliament can still play a role in shaping the CAP proposal, and with its vote in April, can give the newly elected policy-makers strong indications of which direction the new CAP should take. At the same time, the Council of the EU is carrying the CAP file forward, and the Romanian presidency expects to have a provisional agreement among the Member States in June, by the end of its presidency.

Slow Food Europe along with 15 other civil society groups representing organic farmers, environmental protection, animal welfare, development, food, and health interests in the letter addressed to the AGRI Committee of the Parliament demands that policymakers vote for specific amendments, earlier adopted by several other Parliamentary Committees.

Slow Food Europe and other signatory organizations are calling upon Committee members to set clear environmental and societal objectives, requiring the Member States to indicate their contribution to such issues as biodiversity, climate change, or improvement of air and water quality. Civil society also urges to ring-fence 70% of the CAP budget for specific objectives, among them: climate and environment, biodiversity, animal welfare protection, and leguminous crop production. Slow Food Europe and other organizations also suggest the inclusion of new enhanced conditionality, and support the introduction of a maximum stocking density for livestock farms, the strengthening of crop rotation, and an enforced minimum space accorded to farm animals so that they might stand or turn around.

©Tom Fisk

Another appeal to improve the CAP Proposal was sent last week to EU ministers of agriculture, who are expected to reach a common agreement on the CAP Proposal by the beginning of June. Slow Food Europe and other civil society groups urged ministers not to weaken the Commission’s proposal further and to ensure that the new CAP corresponds to the needs of the environment. A broad coalition of organizations in the joint statement agreed that despite its promises to deliver a higher environmental and climate ambition, the CAP proposal will fail to do so if decision-makers do not take a strong political stance and put a definite end to perverse subsidies for intensive agriculture.

Similar concerns were already expressed by the EU Court of Auditors in November last year. In the opinion on the new CAP’s proposal, the Auditors noted that the Commission’s estimate of the new proposal’s contribution to EU climate change objectives “appears unrealistic”; as the largest part of the budget would still be given to farmers based on the number of hectares of land owned or used, and called this instrument “not appropriate for addressing many environmental concerns.”

Statistics show that around 20% of farms have disappeared in Europe in eight years. The tendency remains clear: small farms disappear while big farms tend to expand and grow into factories. The current CAP is heavily subsidized, distributing around 60 billion EUR per year (40% of the EU budget) to farmers, of which approximately 50% goes to livestock farming. The Greenpeace investigation, carried out last year, suggests that the CAP, in combination with existing environmental regulations, rather than promoting more sustainable production methods and small-scale farming “has encouraged investment in intensive farms.”

If delivered well, a results-based delivery model, could meet the needs of farmers, citizens, and the environment and ensure sustainable farming. If the co-legislators do not take into consideration the concerns raised by civil society and the Court of Auditors however, the new CAP proposal will be doomed to have the same problems as the current policy.

A positive step, though, has recently been taken by the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI), which in its new and more powerful role of Associated committee, voted on its position on the CAP reform, and chose to support more funding for ecological farming and more cuts for intensive animal farms. The ENVI Committee has demonstrated that a CAP that benefits the citizens and rewards farmers who contribute to the future of our planet by protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change is possible.

It remains to be seen, whether the members of AGRI Committee will have the same courage as the ENVI Committee to take a much-needed step for the future of our environment, our agriculture, and our food systems. The AGRI Committee will hold its votes on the CAP Proposal on April 2 and 8. It is the last Committee to vote for the CAP Proposal before it goes to the main vote in Plenary Session which will be most likely held after the new Parliament convenes.

Read the joint letter to EU Ministers of Agriculture here

Read the joint letter to the members of the AGRI Committee here

Read Slow Food’s CAP review here

Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe

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