European Commission officially unveils CAP 2020 proposals
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan announced on Friday his plans for a modernised, simplified CAP post-2020.

With a budget of €365bn, the Common Agricultural Policy proposals give member states greater flexibility and responsibility for choosing how and where to invest their CAP funding. However, they will each have to meet goals set at EU level towards a smart, resilient, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector, while at the same time ensuring a fair and better targeted support of farmers' income.

The main features of the Commission’s proposals CAP 2020 are:

1. A new way of working: member states will have more flexibility in how to use their funding allocations, allowing them to design programmes that respond to farmers' and wider rural communities' concerns. Member states will also have the option to transfer up to 15% of their CAP allocations between direct payments and rural development and vice-versa to ensure that their priorities and measures can be funded. A level playing-field among member states will be ensured through:

  • Strategic plans covering the whole period, setting out how each member state intends to meet nine EU-wide economic, environmental and social objectives, using both direct payments and rural development. The Commission will approve each plan to ensure consistency and the protection of the single market.
  • The Commission will follow each country's performance and progress towards the agreed targets.
  • 2. Better targeting of support: direct payments will remain an essential part of the policy, ensuring stability and predictability for farmers. Priority will be given to supporting the small and medium-sized farms that constitute the majority of the EU’s farming sector, and to helping young farmers. The Commission remains committed to external convergence.

    Direct payments to farmers above a threshold €60,000 will be reduced and capped for payments above €100,000 per farm. Labour costs will be taken fully into account.

    Front loading: small and medium-sized farms will receive a higher level of support per hectare.

    Countries will have to set aside at least 2% of their direct payment allocation for helping young farmers' get set up. This will be complemented by financial support for rural development and different measures facilitating access to land and land transfers.

    3. Environmental and climate action: climate change, natural resources, biodiversity, habitats and landscapes are all addressed. Farmers' income support is already linked to the application of environment and climate-friendly practices and the new CAP will include mandatory and incentive-based measures:

  • Direct payments will be conditional on enhanced environmental and climate requirements.
  • Each member state will have to offer eco-schemes to support farmers in going beyond the mandatory requirements, funded with a share of their national direct payments' allocations.
  • At least 30% of each rural development national allocation will be dedicated to environmental and climate measures.
  • 40% of the CAP's overall budget is expected to contribute to climate action.
  • In addition to the possibility to transfer 15% between pillars, member states will also have the possibility to transfer an additional 15% from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 for spending on climate and environment measures (without national co-financing).
  • 4. Greater use of knowledge and innovation: The CAP will include a budget of €10bn from the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme set aside for research and innovation projects in food, agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy.

    Member states will be encouraged to use big data and new technologies for controls and monitoring (for example, verifying farm sizes for direct payment claims using satellite data).

    Countries must also step up the digitisation of rural life, for example through extending broadband access in rural regions.

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    Two injured in under-age tractor driving incident
    Police in Northern Ireland said two juveniles were injured in an incident with a tractor driven by a third one.

    The PSNI's Cookstown unit said on its Facebook page that it joined two ambulances and paramedics at the scene in Coagh, Co Tyrone this Sunday.

    "Two juveniles fell from a tractor being driven by a third juvenile," police said. "Both sustained injuries significant enough that they required transfer by ambulance to hospital. The tractor should not have been on the road and should not have been carrying passengers."

    Officers have prepared a file for the Public Prosecution Service against the driver for "a range of offences," adding that the incident "could have been a lot worse".

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    Repeat of forgotten farmers blunder may be avoided in new CAP
    There may be a chance to support the so-called forgotten farmers who were excluded by the rules of young farmers' schemes in the past, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has indicated.

    Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue asked Minister Creed this week "his views on whether young farmers who are under 40 years of age but that have been farming for more than five years and that are not permitted to access measures currently under Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, including being able to apply for the national reserve and for top-up entitlements will be eligible in the new CAP".

    It appears that there will be some member state discretion in configuring the necessary supports

    His question was connected to a proposed rule allowing each European country to define what is a young farmer after 2020.

    Minister Creed said that while increased support for young farmers in the proposed structure for the next CAP applies to trained "young farmers who have newly set up a holding for the first time" or become head of the farm for the first time, "it appears that there will be some member state discretion in configuring the necessary supports".

    This could avoid a repeat of the anomaly that has seen around 2,000 farmers miss out on current schemes.

    Consultation

    On these and other questions relating to the CAP after 2020, the minster said he would open a new public consultation next month now that the European Commission has published its initial proposal. "Ultimately the shape of the regulations will be determined by engagement with the Commission, member states the European Parliament, but I am anxious that Irish citizens have an opportunity to have their voices heard in the process," Minister Creed said.

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