The European Commission has published an assessment of the three versions of CAP reform currently on the table and identified the areas it believes “a far greener reformed CAP” can be delivered.
Final compromise trilogue negotiations have begun after the Parliament and Council agreed their positions.
The main sticking points will be around environmental and climate ambition, as the Commission wants a CAP that fits with the European green deal.
The Commission has stated that the CAP is fit to deliver its ambitious targets, provided some key proposals are maintained and enhanced.
Eco schemes are the first essential part identified. These will see climate and environment-friendly farming practices funded from the direct payment budget, financing actions such as organic farming, agro-ecological practices, precision farming, agro-forestry and carbon farming.
The Commission is pleased that both the Parliament and the Council agreed to mandatory eco schemes with a ring-fenced budget.
The final figure is still to be decided, but is likely to be between 20% and 30%, leaving the possible EU-wide budget for eco schemes between €38.7bn and €58.1bn.
However, the Commission is concerned that both sides want to introduce flexibilities that may risk these funds being reallocated to other areas of spending.
Another area of concern for the Commission is cross compliance, which is to be renamed enhanced conditionality. It will set the minimum standards farmers must meet to receive income support.
The Commission’s proposal sets a stricter standard than cross compliance and greening combined and would raise the bar for eco schemes and agri-environmental schemes.
However, it is concerned that the other parties in the negotiations want to lower the basic requirements.
It identifies appropriate protection of wetland and peatland, maintenance of permanent grassland and a ban on burning tillage stubble as particularly important for meeting climate targets.
It says it will seek 10% of agricultural land to be set aside for high-diversity landscape features.
The Commission originally proposed that all farms should be required to set aside a portion of area as non-productive to support biodiversity.
However, both the Parliament and Council proposed this should apply to tillage farmers only, while the Council also wants exceptions for farms under 10ha.
This could see the number of farmers and land area covered by the rule drop from 100% to 89% and 66% respectively under the Parliament’s proposal and 20% and 54% based on the Council’s.
The Commission is also concerned that a requirement to dedicate at least 30% of rural development funding to climate and the environment will be watered down by the inclusion of Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) money.
It argues ANC support does not target these areas and should be excluded.