24.01.2013 | permalink
On Wednesday and Thursday, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development adopted its position in a vote on the reform of EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In terms of direct payments to farmers, the result of the vote was a watering down of the Commission’s proposal on ‘Greening’ – linking payments to a set of measures that would improve the environmental performance of farms. ARC2020 – a coalition of 167 civil society organisations – reacted with disappointment: “A majority of members of the Committee have bowed to the pressures of the European agro-industry, which is taking farmers hostage for monocultures and factory farming,” said Benedikt Haerlin of ARC2020. The European Commission’s original proposal required three greening measures as a pre-requisite for receiving direct payments: crop diversification, the preservation of permanent pasture and management of 7% of every farms arable land as ‘ecological focus areas’ (EFAs). The Agricultural Committee’s position allows farmers to ‘opt out’ of these minimum requirements and still get at least 70% of the direct payments. In addition, it allows exceptions and loopholes to these measures. Crop diversification would be reduced to two different crops for farms between 10 and 30 hectares, with the proposed minimum of three crops now only applying to larger farms. The Committee also watered down the limits for the EFAs, proposing a minimum of only 3% of the farm area, which should then rise to 5% from 2016. The Commission had proposed 7%. In March, the draft adopted by the Committee will be examined and put to a plenary vote by all Members of the European Parliament. “The European Parliament must fulfil its responsibility towards European citizens who want to see green and fair farming that provides healthy food from wildlife-rich farms and diverse landscapes”, said Stanka Becheva, Food and Agriculture Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.