EU farm policy needs adequate funding to get over Covid-19 crisis

MEPs insisted that farmers cannot be asked to do more with less money

Photo: EP Johannes Hahn.

The EP Agriculture and Rural Development Committee members broadly welcomed the Commission's recovery package proposals and said it complies with the requests of the Parliament, but they opposed any cuts to the CAP money. Following the presentation of the EU recovery package by EC President Ursula von der Leyen in the Parliament on 27 May, MEPs from the Committee debated with EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Tuesday the future EU farm policy funding and ways to help agrifood sectors recover after the Covid-19 crisis.

Describing the technicalities of the budgetary architecture of the revised Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the new recovery tool - Next Generation EU, Commissioner Hahn underlined how these instruments can help farmers get over the current crisis and increase their resilience so that they can carry on supplying food all across the continent.

As the Budget Commissioner outlined, the budget-related proposals would beef up the crisis management in agriculture and by investing into next-generation farming, they would contribute to make farms green, digital and resilient. He also stressed that it is important Member States to agree quickly to the proposed package and the EU to have a strong common response to the crisis as soon as possible. MEPs should also conclude their work on the post-2020 reform of the CAP.

Commissioner Hahn also explained that all the commitments concerning Next Generation EU have to be placed until the end of 2024. He said that the Commission could start borrowing money from the market for this new tool only if the proposal is ratified by the Parliaments of all 27 EU countries.

We must use the firepower of the next MFF and the next generation recovery instrument to make sure that green becomes a viable business model for all our farmers as it is very difficult to become green when the figures on the bottom line are red, the Budget Commissioner specified. He recalled that the EU recovery plan is about reforms and it should finance investments that would make countries more resilient and better equipped for potential crises in the future.

At the debate, led by AGRI Committee Chair Norbert Lins (EPP, DE), MEPs insisted that EU farm policy needs proper funding and adequate tools to help farmers recover after the pandemic and to ensure food security across the EU. The proposed new CAP budget adds €26.4bn to the EC initial proposal from 2018, but as a total it is still less than the current MFF spending.

The AGRI members also discussed with Commissioner Hahn other issues, including for instance how to increase fairness of distribution of direct payments among Member States and among farms of different sizes.

The AGRI members started to voice their concerns about the CAP money since the first proposal for the multiannual framework was tabled in May 2018 and consistently pushed the Member States and the Commission to consider properly financed EU farm policy after 2020. They again insisted that farmers cannot be asked to do more with less money. Following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, they urged the EU to help its farmers recover after the pandemic crisis and to invest into maintaining food security all across the continent.

In its negotiating mandate on the 2021-2027 EU long-term budget, that was approved on 14 November 2018, the Parliament said that the EU must maintain the financing of the CAP for the EU-27 at the level of the 2014-2020 budget in real terms. This position was reconfirmed after the May 2019 European elections in the resolution the Parliament adopted on 10 October 2019.

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