MEPs push for channeling more money to smaller farms

Veggie burgers, soya steaks and similar plant-based foods could keep their names, they specified

Lawmakers on Friday decided on the upcoming seven years of the common agricultural policy (CAP), one of the main EU's spending programmes. Voting on three regulations – about strategic plans, common market organisation and financing, management and monitoring of the CAP, they said that post-2020 EU farming should be greener, fairer, and more robust.

Parliament foresees a policy shift that should better tailor the EU’s farm policy to the needs of individual member states but they insist on maintaining a level playing field across the Union. National governments should draft strategic plans, which the Commission will endorse, specifying how they intend to implement EU objectives on the ground. The Commission would be checking their performance, not only their compliance with EU rules. The objectives of strategic plans shall be pursued in line with the Paris Agreement, MEPs say.

EP also strengthened mandatory climate and environmentally-friendly practices, the so-called conditionality, that each farmer must apply to get direct support. On top of that, MEPs want to dedicate at least 35% of the rural development budget to all types of environmental and climate-related measures. At least 30% of the direct payments budget should go to eco-schemes, which would be voluntary but could increase farmers’ income.

MEPs insist on setting up farm advisory services in every EU country and allocating at least 30% of their EU-sponsored funding to help farmers fight climate change, manage natural resources sustainably, and protect biodiversity. They also call on member states to encourage farmers to dedicate 10% of their land to landscaping that is beneficial to biodiversity, such as hedges, non-productive trees, and ponds.

EP voted to progressively reduce annual direct payments to farmers above €60 000 and cap them at €100 000. However, farmers could be allowed to deduct 50% of agriculture-related salaries from the total amount before reduction. At least 6% of national direct payments should be used to support small and medium-sized farms but if more than 12% is used, the capping should become voluntary, MEPs urge.

EU states could use at least 4% of their direct payments budgets to support young farmers. Further support could be granted from the rural development funding where young farmers’ investments could be prioritised, they insist.

Parliament stresses that EU subsidies should be reserved only for those who engage in at least a minimum level of agricultural activity. Those who operate airports, railway services, waterworks, real estate services, permanent sports and recreational grounds should be automatically excluded.

MEPs rejected all proposals to reserve meat-related names for products containing meat. Nothing will change for plant-based products and the names they currently use when being sold in restaurants and shops. The proposed amendments for prohibition of labels 'veggie burgers', 'vegan sausage', 'tofu steaks' and similar names, followed a request by European farmers' organisations, as to protect consumers from being misled. Meanwhile, MEPs voted to accept proposals to ban the use of words like ‘yoghurt substitute’ or ‘imitation cheese’ for alternative products that contain no dairy.

EP pushed for further measures to help farmers cope with risks and potential future crises. It wants the market to be more transparent, an intervention strategy for all agricultural products, and practices aiming for higher environmental, animal health, or animal welfare standards to be exempt from competition rules. They also want to turn the crisis reserve, helping farmers with price or market instability, from an ad-hoc instrument to a permanent one with a proper budget.

MEPs want to increase sanctions for those who repeatedly fail to comply with EU requirements, for example on the environment and animal welfare. This should cost farmers 10% of their entitlements, up from today’s 5%.

Lawmakers also want an ad-hoc EU complaints mechanism to be set up. This would cater to farmers and rural beneficiaries who are treated unfairly or disadvantageously with regard to EU subsidies, if their national government fails to deal with their complaint.

 

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