RIGA - The European Union’s regulatory arm proposed a new farm policy that would equalize subsidies across the 27-nation bloc and keep a so-called two-pillar system, under which some rules are set on a bloc-wide level and others by countries based on an EU framework, reports Bloomberg. The new Common Agriculture Policy for the 2013-2020 period must become “greener, fairer,” said Dacian Ciolos, the EU agriculture commissioner, in a statement on the European Commission’s Web site on Nov. 18. The commission will propose legislation in mid-2011, it shows.
The EU’s agriculture and rural-development budget was 55.2 billion euros in 2009, the bloc’s biggest single area of spending and accounting for 47 percent of the overall budget. Farm payments currently vary across the bloc, with lower subsidies in countries that joined more recently.
“We need reform,” Ciolos said at a press conference in Brussels. “Europe means 27 member states, not only two. The goal is not to create winners or losers; the goal is to put something on the table that is more credible in the future.”
Ciolos said it is in the interest of France and Germany, the bloc’s largest agricultural producers, to have a “strong” and more credible future farm policy. The proposals would mean a “clear improvement” in the portion of EU farm subsidies that goes to new member states, including Latvia and other Baltic countries, he said.
The commission proposed three policy options for new farm regulation, which it said are intended to address the “most pressing shortcomings” of the current method, create a fairer system and move away from a focus on income support to goals related to climate change and the environment.
Direct support for farmers “should be about underpinning the economics of farm production and helping farmers deal with higher costs and volatility, rather than delivering environmental goods,” Peter Kendall, president of the U.K.’s National Farmers’ Union, said in an e-mailed statement.
The commission said the policy options share the idea that a future system of direct payments to farmers can’t be based on historical reference periods, unlike the current system that provides different rules for more recent EU members.
Under the first option, the commission proposes to keep the current system of direct payments, as well as simplify market instruments and increase funding to adapt farming to challenges including climate change.
The second option includes a proposal to change the way direct payments are made, including a new system for small farms and a limit to basic payments for large farms, while rural-development rules would focus on environmental and climate measures and provide compensation for lost income.
The third proposes to phase out direct payments, instead paying for environmental public goods, as well as abolish all market measures and focus rural development policy on climate change and environment.
“Extreme price volatility is on the increase and climate change puts a big question over our ability to meet world food needs,” said Padraig Walshe, head of farm organization Copa, in an e-mailed statement. “Yet the only concrete proposal in the commission’s communication is to add more costly burdens onto EU farmers.”