The European Commission announced its plans to make a number of short-term changes to the CAP aimed at cutting red tape and giving farmers more flexibility than is currently provided for in scheme rules on Friday.

The Commission has proposed completely exempting those farming 10ha or less from CAP’s conditionality (cross compliance) inspections in the hope of “significantly simplify the daily work of small farmers”.

This would leave around 28,000 Irish farmers free from CAP inspections – one in every five farmers – with this figure rising to 65% of farmers across the EU.

However, the Commission has stated that while these farmers would be free from the risk of incurring payment penalties, they must still abide by environmental rules under its plans.

For other farmers, it is planned that better use of satellite checks could reduce the number of on-the-ground inspections by up to 50% to leave farmers “more time to dedicate to their core work”.

More satellite checks could cut boots on the ground inspections in half, according to the Commission. \ Philip Doyle

It is also proposed that clarity is brought to force majeure – unforeseeable events outside of farmers’ control which leave farmers unable to meet scheme requirements – to ensure penalties are not wrongly imposed.

Brussels said that clarifying force majeure would make it easier to direct CAP support to farmers in these situations, which could include flooding or drought.

Tillage changes

A number of planned changes were also announced for farmers - particularly tillage farmers - by loosening rules imposed through good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) requirements.

These include changing GAEC 8 – which currently requires a minimum of 4% space for nature for farmers claiming Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) – to just require existing non-productive features to be maintained.

The Commission plans on giving member states the opportunity to let farmers choose whether to abide by crop rotation or crop diversification (two- or three-crop rule) requirements.

Stubble cultivation rules could also be relaxed by giving more leeway on deadlines and the practices deemed as meeting this particular requirement.

It is proposed that a member state can chose to completely exempt certain crops, soil types or farming systems from green cover, crop rotation and/or crop diversification requirements.


Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had announced at the beginning of February that Brussels planned on cutting back on red tape around farming.

Her announcement came as farmers were protesting in their thousands right across the EU, with tractor protests entering into Brussels last month and protesting outside a meeting of EU agriculture ministers.

Administrative burden and the ever-increasing levels of environmental regulations hitting farmers were among the chief concerns cited by farmers protesting from Cork to Poland.

The Commission and national governments across the EU were hit with weeks of farmer protests coming into 2024.

The Commission president stated that the Commission “remains fully committed to delivering solutions to ease the pressure currently felt by our hard-working farming women and men”.

“We are easing the administrative burden on our farmers to help them guarantee food security for European citizens.”

Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski added that the “the message from farmers is clear: they want to be working in their fields, not stuck behind files”.

The Commission now plans on reaching “quick agreement” on the proposals with the European Parliament and member states to get changes finalised as quickly as this month.

It stated that a quick turnaround on the proposals could allow them to apply from 1 January 2024.