In this blog post, Harriet Bradley and Juliette Pagnon from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), one of the SHERPA partners, give some insights into the process for amending the Strategic Plans of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Process to amend the CAP Strategic Plans
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform has just come into place, along with a range of other EU laws on climate (e.g. the Land Use and Land-Use Change and Forestry Regulation (LULUCF) and the Renewable Emission Directive), as covered in SHERPA’s new update on EU Rural Policies. According to the CAP Regulation, EU Member States can modify their CAP Strategic Plans (CSPs) once a year by submitting a proposal for amendment, which the Commission must approve within three months (it also has 30 days to make observations Member States must address by providing all necessary information).
Member States are also required to review their plans within six months of new EU environmental and climate legislation being agreed. This will be the case in the coming months, with new climate regulations coming into force (like the above-mentioned LULUCF Regulation), where Member States have new targets for carbon sinks, as well as the process of Member States updating their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs)—expected in June—in order to reflect the EU’s increased climate target to 2030. Therefore, it’s highly likely that some changes to CSPs will be proposed before the end of the year.
What potential amendments?
Recent assessments by IEEP for France, Spain, Germany and Poland identified a number of areas in which these countries could improve their contribution to the CAP’s three environmental objectives. For instance, it has been identified not take the opportunity of using the increased flexibility to significantly increase support for environmental and climate action. To raise the ambition for the CSP, Member States are encouraged to increase the budget for environmental and climate commitments, eco-schemes and cross-cutting interventions benefitting the climate and environment (including some investments, support for cooperation, support for knowledge exchange and advice) by a decrease in the budgets of basic and coupled income support.
In this context, at last month’s EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, ministers discussed the Strategic Plans’ implementation and the lessons learned to improve its implementation in the short and long term. They mostly stressed that the implementation of CSPs was slow and cumbersome and that amending them adds an additional administrative burden. They called unanimously for a more flexible and faster procedure for approving amendments (especially when it comes to the first pillar, which includes so-called ‘eco-schemes’).
High priority is to support farmers’ incomes
While Ministers of Agriculture did not elaborate much on the content of the amendments they could propose, it seems that most of them place a high priority on direct payments in order to support farmers’ incomes, which have been undermined by the effects of climate change and the inflation caused by the war in Ukraine. Greece for instance, stressed the importance of ensuring income stability when amending the Plans, particularly in the context of the green transition. Spain emphasised the impact of climate change by explaining how it exacerbated the difficulty of initiating the transition, with drought preventing the sowing of legumes or crop rotation for example. Therefore, many ministers stressed farmers’ difficulty adapting to changes but have not specified whether their amendments will favour environmental or economic objectives. They called for a clear timetable for amendments to be provided well in advance, and for farmers to understand the changes and thus increase their acceptability.
The way forward…
The EU Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, ruled out the possibility of shorter deadlines for approving amendments but promised to support Member States in the procedure and make it the most accessible. However, he pointed out that the EU Directorate-General (DG) for Agriculture and Rural Development will not be the only one involved in the process: all DGs will evaluate the amendments in order to ensure they do not compromise the environmental, climate, and social objectives the CSPs aim to achieve.
So, there are going to be important debates in the coming months at the national level on changing the CAP Strategic Plans.
The SHERPA Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs) can actively contribute to national discussions by providing examples of best practices, sharing innovative initiatives, fostering knowledge exchange and therefore informing the debate. This valuable input can help develop amendments that promote environmental sustainability while being tailored to the specific needs of their areas.