The CAP Towards 2020 – Meeting the Challenges Ahead

Dacian Ciolos

” What we are proposing in this reform is a true partnership between one hand, the consumer and the taxpayer, and on the other hand, the farmers. This new partnership fits into the historical perspective of what is a top-level EU policy, one which recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and is described over the next few pages. It also reflects the desire to reshape the contract of confidence between European citizens and their farming sector based on the Common Agricultural Policy”, declared Dacian Ciolos, European Comissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

 A growing number of rural areas have become increasingly driven by factors outside agriculture due to diversification of their socio-economic structure. Nevertheless, agriculture remains an essential driver of the rural economy in much of the EU. The vitality and potential of many rural areas remain closely linked to the presence of a competitive and dynamic farming sector, attractive to young farmers.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is confronted with a set of challenges, some unique in nature, some unforeseen, that invite the EU to make a strategic choice for the long-term future of its agriculture and rural areas. The CAP has to respond to a number of three future challenges, namely the challenge of food security, the challenge of good resource  management and the challenge of a rural territorial balance.

 The primary role of agriculture is to supply food. Given that demand worldwide will continue rising in the future, the EU should be able to contribute to world food demand. Therefore it is essential that EU agriculture maintains its production capacity and improves it. A strong agricultural sector is vital for the highly competitive food industry to remain an important part of EU economy and trade and should encourage the synergies between crop and livestock farming, e.g. in proteins. Moreover, EU citizens demand high quality and a wide choice of food products, reflecting high safety, quality and welfare standards, including local products. In this context, the issues of access, availability and acceptability of healthy food and nutritional efficiency have also become more apparent. EU agriculture finds itself today in a considerably more competitive environment, as the world economy is increasingly integrated and the trading system more liberalized.

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The Objectives of the reformed CAP

“Farming is the main economic activity in a lot of rural regions in Europe. We need to begin injecting a new dynamism into this economic activity and enable people with ideas, however small, to put this ideas into practice.”

Dacian Ciolos, EU Comissionner for Agriculture and Rural Development

The CAP must be reformed in order to promote greater competitiveness, efficient use of taxpayer resources and effective public policy return that European citizens expect, with regard to food security, the environment, climate change and social and territorial balance. The main target should be to build more sustainable, smarter and more inclusive growth for rural Europe.

In this context, the three main objectives for the future CAP would be :

Objective 1 : Viable food production that would limit farm income variability,  improve the competitiveness  of the agricultural sector, to enhance its value share in the food chain and compensate for production difficulties in areas with specific natural constraints.

Objective 2 : Sustainable management of natural resources and climate action, in order to guarantee sustainable production practices and secure the enhanced provision of environmental public goods, to foster green growth through innovation, developing new products, changing production processes, and supporting new patterns of demand, notably in the context of the emerging bioeconomy. A more sustainable management of natural resources and climate action would also be necessary to pursue climate change mitigation and adaptation actions  thus enabling agriculture to respond climate change. Because agriculture is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, enabling the sector to better adapt to the effects of extreme weather fluctuations can also reduce the negative effects of climate change.

Objective 3 : Balanced territorial development is meant to support rural employment while maintaining the social fabric of rural areas,to improve the rural economy and promote diversification to enable local actors to unlock their potential, to optimize the use of additional local resources, as well as to allow for structural diversity in the farming systems, improve the conditions for small farms and develop local markets.

Achieving all these objectives will require that public support to the agricultural sector and rural areas be maintained. Policies set at European level are therefore needed in order to ensure fair conditions with a common set of objectives, principles and rules. Also, an agricultural policy designed at EU level provides for a more efficient use of budgetary resources than the coexistence of national policies.

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