When the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which runs from 2023 to 2027 was introduced, it was lauded as being a ‘fairer, greener and more performance-based CAP’.

Phrases such as ensuring a sustainable future for European farmers, providing more targeted supports for smaller farmers and allowing greater flexibility for EU countries to shape the implementation of CAP to adapt to local conditions were to the fore.

Policymakers were proud of the so-called ‘green architecture’ to which CAP was designed and instead of CAP being the main player in terms of EU agricultural policy, it was now also viewed as a ‘key tool’ in achieving the objectives set out in the EU’s Farm to Fork and biodiversity strategies. Policymakers argue that this is the direction of travel EU taxpayers sought.

Converging of payments

The converging of payments, both within and between EU member states, is viewed as a positive in the current reform.

Farmers on the receiving end of higher payments will agree with this sentiment but a large cohort of farmers with higher-value entitlements are facing significantly lower payments.

One group which will be particularly affected are sizeable full-time suckler and beef units.

The current CAP was a few years in the making and it will be no different for the next CAP with early discussions and soundings of key objectives for inclusion already being discussed. It is likely that significant dialogue will not take place until after EU elections in mid-2024.

The direction of travel for the next CAP will be strongly influenced by who takes up the agriculture portfolio and what countries hold prominent positions and the balance of power.

Climate considerations

Environment and climate considerations will remain key but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought an increased focus on the importance of food security and this may alter the views of EU consumers.

This may decelerate the recent move away from supporting food production and see supports more closely aligned to the original objective of CAP to increase food production and stabilise markets, ensure the availability of food at reasonable prices and provide fair living standards for farmers.

Whether it halts the move to full convergence or 100% flattening of payments is too early to say but this is an area that will attract close attention.

Given the worrying increase in the number of farmers exiting the sector, one would imagine there will have to be more credence paid to generational renewal.

This is, of course, assuming the CAP is not further diminished in importance in the EU with CAP receiving a much lower share of the overall EU budget in recent reforms.