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Friday, 15 March 2013

EU farm policy voted in Parliament

MEPs voted on Wednesday 13 March to adopt a controversial Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2014-2020 that proved a setback for those who lobbied for stronger environmental measures and the death of farm subsidies, including those on sugar.
During an afternoon of votes on four packages of legislation on the reform, the European Parliament:
•   Narrowly approved, by a vote of 375 to 277, the extension of quotas
•   Approved, by a margin of 427 to 224, direct payments rules for farmers, or Pillar 1.
•   Voted 556 to 95 for rules on Pillar 2, the rural development programme that involves shared financing with national governments;
•    Backed, by a margin of 472 to 172, rules for financing, management and monitoring.
Thus, the full Parliament largely adopted the amendments voted by the European Parliament’s agricultural committee in late January. This translates in:
Payments:
•    Differences among EU member states in the levels of EU funding for farmers should be reduced slightly faster than the European Commission proposed. No member state's farmers should receive less than 65% of the EU average.
•    Creation of a list of land-owners, such as airports and sports clubs, which should automatically be excluded from funding unless they prove that farming contributes a substantial share of their income.
•    Direct payments cap to any one farm at €300,000, and substantially reduce payments to those receiving more than €150,000 (this would not apply to cooperatives which redistribute payments to their members).
Young farmers:
•    Young farmers (in the first five years they farm) should get a 25% top-up payments for a maximum of 100 ha (instead of 50 hectares, as voted by the Parliamentary agricultural commission earlier in January)
Greening measures:
•    30% of national budgets for direct payments should be made conditional upon compliance with mandatory greening measures, but stress that these measures must be made more flexible and gradual. The three key measures - crop diversification, maintaining permanent pasture and grassland and creating "ecologically-focused areas", would remain but with certain exceptions, e.g. to reflect the size of the farm.
Quotas on milk, sugar and wine:
•    To ensure that the expiry of milk quotas does not lead to a serious crisis in the milk sector, MEPs suggest granting aid for at least three months to milk producers who voluntarily cut their production by at least 5%. Amendments calling for prolongation of milk quotas, set to expire in 2015, were rejected by the House.
•    Sugar quotas will be maintained until the end of 2019-2020. This mechanism should, at the same time, permit additional imports at zero duty to ensure sufficient raw materials are available on the EU sugar market
•    Vine planting rights should also be prolonged until at least 2030.

The final shape of the new EU farm policy will be decided by the European Parliament, EU farm ministers and the European Commission, in three-way negotiations which should begin in late March/early April. Already, full implementation of the new CAP and rules for direct payments to farmers is unlikely until 2015 - one year after the new seven-year CAP is due to go into effect.
Dacian Cioloş, the EU agricultural commissioner, said he hoped a final agreement could be reached by the end of the EU’s Irish presidency in June. “It’s our real ambition, but it will be hard work,” he said.
The commissioner said he was displeased with some outcomes of the vote - including the six-year extension of sugar beet subsidies that were to end by 2016 under an earlier agreement.“We don’t think the sector needs more time for preparation,” Cioloş told a news conference. “The sugar sector in Europe is a competitive one.”
The vote in Strasbourg marked the first time the European Parliament has had a direct say in shaping the farming policy under powers it acquired under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.


Source: European Parliament, Euractiv

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