EC assesses state aid rules for agriculture, forestry, rural areas

Targeted changes could improve incentives for workers to engage in activities that favour biodiversity and climate mitigation

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The existing state aid rules for the agriculture and forestry sectors and for rural areas work well and meet the needs of the sectors concerned. This concludes a document that recaps the results of an evaluation, published by the Commission on Wednesday.

The assessment finds that some targeted adjustments may be necessary to align the current rules with the the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU Green Deal.

It was carried out as part of the ongoing review of the state aid rules for agriculture, forestry and rural areas, namely the Agricultural Block Exemption Regulation, and the 2014 EU Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas. The EU executive has recently extended the validity of these rules until the end of 2022.

The evaluation concludes that, overall, the rules under scrutiny work well are broadly fit for purpose and they largely meet the needs of the sectors concerned.

But it also revealed that the existing rules need certain targeted revisions, including clarifications of some concepts, further streamlining and simplification, as well as adjustments to reflect the EU current priorities.

Some rules appear to be outdated, for example with respect to aid in sectors which are subject to production limits set in previous CAP legislation which is no longer in force.

Certain definitions and terms in the existing rules give rise to recurring interpretation requests, such as the definition of protected animals causing damage for which farmers may be compensated. They should be further clarified.

Some requirements relating to aid for subsidised services, such as information actions, appear to be too complex, the document shows..

The rules will also need to be aligned to the Commission's current priorities, in particular the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy and Biodiversity Strategy, as well as the CAP and national CAP Strategic Plans, including their enhanced environmental ambition.

The Commission will take the results of the evaluation into account when reviewing the existing rules and examine in particular the possibility to extend the scope of the Agricultural Block Exemption Regulation.

It applies to measures that could be implemented directly by Member States without the need for prior notification to and approval by the Commission with a view to further simplify the existing framework. The EU executive will reflect on possible targeted changes to the rules to improve incentives for farmers and foresters to engage in activities that favour biodiversity and climate mitigation.

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