In response to the European Commission's request for the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) to take part in a foresight exercise on the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy after 2020, on 1 June the CoR's NAT commission adopted by a large majority a draft opinion outlining specific proposals on the future reform.
Given the many challenges facing the EU and its agriculture, food and rural areas, the CoR's NAT commission is issuing a strong signal in support of major reform.
"We need a fair, sustainable and solidarity-based Common Agricultural Policy that is economically, socially, environmentally, regionally and internationally legitimate," argued CoR rapporteur Guillaume Cros, vice-president of the Regional Council of Occitanie (France/PES).
Mr Cros went on to say that "without an income guaranteed by fair and stable agricultural prices, without a fairer distribution of public funding between agricultural holdings and between Member States, without more sustainable modes of production, and without greater efforts to develop rural areas, the EU will not be able to ensure the continued existence of prosperous agricultural holdings on a human scale, face environmental and public health-related challenges, develop vibrant rural areas and strengthen cohesion within the European Union".
The draft opinion also advocates regulating agricultural markets to prevent surpluses or shortfalls, refocusing the EU's agricultural trade policy towards exporting products with high added value, thereby enhancing regions, and distributing profit margins more fairly between those operating supply chains, from producers to distributers.
Regarding the first pillar, the CoR's NAT commission is in favour of capping and modulating direct payments per agricultural worker, in order to legitimise public funding and develop agricultural holdings on a human scale that provide employment. Other demands relating to the first pillar include: reducing the gap in the levels of direct payments to Member States and strengthening greening through crop rotation, introducing leguminous plants, and transitioning towards pesticide-free crops and livestock farming on a human scale.
This substantial reform of the first pillar should also make it possible to bolster rural development policy and leaving regional authorities more margins to transfer more funding to the second pillar. The priorities of the CoR's NAT commission include support for young farmers, the short supply chains preferred by consumers, good quality supply chains, collective catering using organic and local produce, the small-scale processing of products, etc. For non-agricultural activities in rural areas, the NAT commission backs the simplification and integration of various EU funds in order to enhance technical and social innovation, professional training, the maintenance of local public services, the elimination of the digital divide, etc.
The draft opinion will be put to the vote at the CoR plenary session on 12-13 July 2017. The final text will represent the CoR's contribution in advance of the publication by the European Commission of its Communication on the modernisation of the CAP before the end of the year.