A European Commission proposal leaked on Wednesday has signalled the possibility of member states changing their CAP strategic plans to ease red tape and grant farmers flexibility from EU environmental rules.

It is proposed that those farming an area of 10ha or less could be exempted from conditionality (formerly cross compliance) requirements, if member states should so wish.

The move would free over 28,000 Irish farmers - almost one in every five farmers - from CAP inspections and payment penalties.

The Commission’s proposal declares a “crisis situation in EU agriculture” and notes that the first year of the new CAP (2023) showed that “adjustments are necessary” to cut CAP’s red tape and “rebalance” the CAP’s green requirements towards a “more voluntary approach”.

Proposed flexibility

Brussels justified the proposed flexibility by stating that CAP plans were drawn up before it became clear that there was to be war in Ukraine, which would hit farmers’ pockets, and green deal legislation which would be passed on to farmers.

The proposal suggests that tillage farmers could be granted flexibility on or even a derogation from stubble cultivation and green cover rules if needed on foot of adverse soil and climatic conditions.

To prevent this CAP requirement being administered through "calendar farming", decisions around this CAP requirement would be "mostly in the hands of member states" if the proposals pass.

The Commission said that farmers need more room to manoeuvre on dates, as meeting the requirement "may negatively impact certain soils" and "run counter" to the goal of improving soil health.

Leaked plans

The leaked plans also state that there could be further leeway granted to tillage farmers by allowing crop rotation requirements through crop diversification on the two- or three-crop rule.

Other flexibilities contained in the proposal would free organic farmers and tillage farmers from the 4% space for nature requirement under the Basic Income Support for Sustainability.