CAP reform to better meet expectations of farmers, consumers

Stiff penalties have to pay the beneficiaries who intentionally ignore the rules on food quality

Ulrike Mueller, MEP

For substantial reduction of red tapes and for a more efficient distribution of tasks between the EU and its member countries, called on MEPs from the EP Agriculture Committee in the approved last sets of proposals to improve EU farm policy. By shifting to a new performance-based system from a system based on checking that beneficiaries comply with detailed rules, the ultimate aim is this policy to better meet farmers’ and consumers’ expectations. The full House will have a say on the proposals.

The amendments to the Financing, Management and Monitoring regulation for the future programming period 2021-2027, were backed on 8 April by 28 votes to 7, with two abstentions. They foresee as an addition to the CAP direct payments and rural development funding to be financed a crises reserve which initial budget should be €400 million. MEPs asserted that further funds could be added each year together with any unused money from the previous year, until it reaches €1.5 bln. Only as a last resort should be activated a “financial discipline mechanism”, which cuts direct payments for farmers, excluding the first €2 000 of payments.

The report, drafted by German ALDE MEP Ulrike Mueller, foresees increasing penalties for reoccurring non-compliance with legal requirements, regarding animal welfare or food quality, and thus ensures a level-playing field between member states. In these cases the beneficiaries should lose 10% of their entitlements, which is up from today’s 5%, but if they intentionally ignore the rules, they will have to lose 15% of the amount they are entitled to. Rapporteur Mueller made clear that “if beneficiaries repeatedly do not comply with EU rules, especially when it comes to sensitive issues such as animal welfare or food quality, we must be firm”. Increasing penalties for reoccurring violations will help keep our food quality at the highest standards as well as ensuring a level-playing field among member states, she stressed adding “We need the greatest transparency possible and a real simplification of administrative procedures.

Commenting on the new rules, French EPP MEP Michel Dantin, shadow rapporteur on this file, accented on the significance of the proposed  paradigm shift in favour of a more advisory and supportive approach towards farmers, and obtaining the establishment of early warning mechanisms in case of non-compliance as well as the right for any farmers making a first-time mistake not to be sanctioned. “We pushed for the lightening of administrative burdens for farmers and national administrations”, he emphasised.

Lawmakers proposed as well fewer checks on Member States’ performance and to avoid overburdening national administrations and farmers, the countries should report their achievements to the Commission once every two years, not every year as the executive body has initially proposed. They however ensured that if national control systems are seriously deficient, the Commission should carry out risk-based on-the-spot checks.

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