26 June 2013: Agreement on CAP reform finalised this afternoon has failed to deliver for sustainable farming, marking a victory for vested interests over collective public benefits. The agreement is bad news for sustainable farming; bad news for the environment; and bad news for the taxpayers who demanded that their money be used to deliver for the common good.
Today’s agreement will not offer enough support for farmers in marginal areas where supports are most needed to maintain ecologically friendly production. Instead the payments will favour the most intensive and often the most polluting farmers. Under the new CAP, subsidies for intensive farming systems will not include proposed positive actions limit damage to water quality and wildlife from intensive production. The negotiators who finalised the deal have this afternoon announced that the €40 billion that will be paid out each year in agricultural subsidies over the next 7 years will help to deliver objectives of sustainable farming – but this is simply not the case.
Many farming practices support nature. Many farmers deliver very important public goods to society, such as landscapes, clean water, wildlife, but are not rewarded by the market for these. Farmed semi-natural grasslands, like upland pastures and lowland hay meadows, are rich in birds, pollinating insects and cultural heritage. They also depend on sensitive farming. Instead of supporting these farming systems in the new CAP, the deal has shunned measures for environmentally rich grasslands, wetlands and carbon rich soils and fails to support high nature value farming.
Many of the most positive proposals have been removed by the Council of Ministers – representing a lost opportunity to bring added value to taxpayers for their support to farmers. Actions that were to be introduced to ‘green’ the most intensive systems by incentivising environmentally beneficial elements have also been effectively erased – for example 89% of all farmers will be exempt from having Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) and those that do can still plant crops on them.
In summary, Anja Murray of BirdWatch Ireland says that this reform “goes against all attempts to foster greater sustainability of farming in Ireland and across Europe”.
Trees Robijns of BirdLife Europe has said that “This is a major blow to those who championed a more sustainable, forward-thinking policy – one which would deliver for people and the environment as well as protecting the long term interests of farming.” She continued “Vested interests are the today’s winners and the result is a farming policy that will achieve little environmental improvement, despite consuming vast amounts of public money”.