Should We Care More About The Common Agricultural Policy For 2021/2027?

The Common Agricultural Policy, better known as the CAP, is a European Union policy supporting EU farmers and Europe’s food security and is dedicated to agriculture and rural development. It is managed and funded at European level from the resources of the EU’s budget.

The policy is centred on 3 key actions: 

  • direct income support for farmers, 
  • market support for the stabilisation of the market,
  • rural development measures

The budget of the CAP is €365 billion, 40% of the commune budget of the EU. But since the creation of the CAP in 1962, the budget continues to decrease every 7 years. With more than 12 million full-time farmers in the EU, agricultural support is necessary for a big part of European farmers. For example, in France, 47% of the farmers’ income came from the CAP. The subsidies are hectare-based payments that support big companies and make small farmers unable to compete. There are also downsides to productivity because farmers with less land have to produce more to make a profit. Large industrial agro-enterprises can sell their goods in developing countries at way below the market value that destroy local farming and ruin livelihood for local farming communities.

Since its inception, the CAP has been reformed multiple times. It is heavily criticised for encourages practices of intensive agriculture and livestock farming, use of inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, irrigation water), high-energy concentrated fodder (cereals, silage corn) and cutthroat competition on international markets. The CAP has devastating effects such as deforestation, pollution of air, water and soil and also on the life of thousands of small-scale farmers. Also, the current process has a negative impact on the global south, where some European products are being dumped on the local market. 

So the CAP has a huge impact on the farmers but also on people life. It impacts our health because of the loss of qualitative food and food diversity, it impacts our natural environment because our water is contaminated, our air polluted and our soil sterile and it impacts our economic environment because we do not have any more job in the rural area. 

Until now, the CAP didn’t provide enough healthy food to European citizens, didn’t improve the desirability of the farming profession, didn’t protect our environment and the biodiversity and didn’t adapt the agriculture in the context of climate change. Currently, the CAP is facing new and complex issues that it can not avoid anymore. 

The EU is in a process to adopt a new version of the CAP for the 2021-2027 period. The EU Commission’s proposal included more measures to “green” agricultural aid but it is questionable if this will lead to the necessary change. The commissioner has chosen income support as a more important objective of the CAP than addressing environmental and climate challenges. This European Union policy doesn’t answer to 3 principally threats:

  • There is no food self-sufficiency in Europe with 50 million tonnes of food imported into Europe.
  • A fall in the incomes of the small farmers, that is mean that 14 million citizens who will see their income fall by 20%.
  • There isn’t progress when it comes to environmental issues in comparison with the last CAP because an important part of the previous common obligations will be removed. With partial renationalisation, each member States will decide for their own actions plan and consequently, they will have fewer obligations to be met.

It’s been many years that small-scale farmers and Europeans citizens are asking for an agricultural policy that will protect them and the environment. Will this new CAP help to better feed citizens, will it tackle issues that farmers are, facing? As things stand this reform of one of the most important community policy is still not enough to solve the current crisis we are facing. We demand more ambitious measures and food sovereignty. We want more small-scale farmers and better food for citizens. 

The article was written by Fanny Planche, a young member of Friends of the Earth Malta. 

Friends of the Earth Malta gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union. The content of this article are the sole responsibility of Friends of the Earth Malta and cannot be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information provided contained therein.

This project is co-financed by the  Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisation.

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