EU Strikes Initial Deal on Farming Reform With Focus on Climate

The European Union reached a provisional agreement to overhaul its massive farming policy in an effort to make it simpler and more sustainable, in sync with the bloc’s unprecedented strategy to reach climate neutrality.

National governments, the European Parliament and the European Commission on Friday struck a deal that would reform the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy in 2023-2027. Measures involving support of farm incomes and production account for about a third of the EU’s overall budget.

“The new CAP bolsters environmental measures and also includes provisions to ensure greater support for smaller farms and help young farmers enter the profession,” the EU Council, which represents member states, said in a statement.

The changes, more than two years in the making, would overhaul one of the most complex EU policy areas and attempt to bring it in line with the bloc’s ambitious climate goals. Under the Green Deal, the EU seeks a 55% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, and zero net emissions by mid-century.

The CAP overhaul would include requirements for countries to funnel a quarter of farm-income payments toward ecological schemes and for farmers to set aside 3% of their arable land for biodiversity efforts, said Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the Commission in charge of the Green Deal. Still, he cautioned that the deal could have gone further.

“This is a big step in the right direction,” he said at a press conference. “But it’s work ongoing, we’ll have to continue in that direction.”

The agreement remains tentative until approved by the EU’s agriculture ministers, who are scheduled to meet June 28-29. In the next step it must also be formally endorsed by national governments and the European Parliament before it can become law.

Green Opposition

Members of the Green party in the EU Parliament said they would vote against the agreement, adding that it “falls far short” of the bloc’s promises on climate change, including the use of less pesticides and promotion of organic farming.

“The CAP was supposed to be the big building block of the Green Deal,” said Green party member Bas Eickhout in a statement. “What remains is a series of empty slogans with big agri-business as usual or, in many cases, a deterioration of the status quo.”

The European People’s Party, the biggest political group in the EU assembly, threw its weight behind the deal. The Liberals also endorsed it.

Last year the EU unveiled a new “Farm to Fork” strategy, mapping out ways to halve pesticide and antibiotic use, among other goals. The new agricultural policy will contribute to the targets of that strategy and “fully integrate EU environmental and climate legislation,” according to a statement from the European Commission.

Below are some of additional details in the EU’s tentative agreement to reform the CAP, according to the commission:

  • The EU’s member states will redistribute at least 10% of national direct payments to support small- or medium-size farms
  • It will include, for the first time, so-called “social conditionality” to ensure that beneficiaries respect elements of EU social and labor law
  • At least 35% of funds for rural development will go to the promotion of environmental and animal welfare policies
  • It will include an agricultural reserve, with a budget of at least 450 million euros ($537 million), to fund market measures during times of crisis

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