As last-minute talks to secure a CAP deal under the Portuguese EU Council presidency failed last week, the difficulty in reaching an agreement highlights the significant differences around the future of the CAP.
There is clearly no ‘one size fits all’ policy that can be adopted any more, and while Member States will be able to design their own national plans, it will be within the confines of the overall CAP.
The CAP has moved away so much in recent years from its original goal — to ensure a safe and secure supply of food to Europe — and its future seems to centre around environmental measures, with agricultural production a secondary consideration.
This is a cop-out at a political level within the EU and demonstrates an ambivalence towards climate action. Real climate action would have seen a dedicated budget allocated rather than raiding farmers’ incomes.
Further, while it may be that national plans will give countries some freedom, it’s all within a shrinking CAP budget, with farmers being asked to do more for less financial rewards.
While no one can justify hundreds of thousands in subsidies going to huge businesses, seeing any farmer’s income reduced is not a positive news story.
There will be winners and losers in this process and many of the losers will feel cuts to their supports as deeply unfair.
These concerns are genuine. Farmers on higher payments did nothing wrong, only farm their land to the best of their ability.
Equally many farmers on lower payments will feel the time has come for more equality.
There is no glory in convergence. Just hard choices.
On top of that, the extent of the proposed cuts will undoubtedly result in some farmers questioning whether it’s worth receiving any CAP supports given the effort involved to get them.
Whether or not the increases others may receive through convergence will be enough to encourage them to continue farming viably remains to be seen.
However, the ambition of many pushing a strong environmental line with reduced financial supports has the potential to push farmers out of the loop and out of CAP — a move that no one wants.
Ensuring farmers are part of the changing CAP is vital, but it must come with clear messaging and supports for those involved.