FOOD SECURITY SPECIAL SECTION
“The Commission's current proposals for reforming the CAP take us in the wrong direction”
The aim of a reformed Common Agricultural Policy should be to develop a more sustainable system of farming in Europe by providing incentives to farmers to produce greater quantities of food, to help meet growing global demand, while at the same time reducing the resources and inputs they consume. Put another way, if the EU is going to tackle climate change and produce more food, we need a new-style CAP that supports farmers to become more nutrient, energy and carbon efficient.
Unfortunately, the Commission's current proposals for reforming the CAP take us in the wrong direction. There is too much emphasis on justifying direct payments farmers, and too little focus on the big challenges of food security and climate change. The danger is that while the rest of the world is striving to improve agricultural efficiency, by increasing yields and reducing inputs, Europe will introduce “greening” measures that will lead farmers in the opposite direction.
Take the Commission’s proposals on introducing biodiversity corridors and stopping continuous cereal growing in intensive arable areas. This is a laudable ambition but not very relevant to livestock farmers. The proposed permanent grassland measure, on the other hand, will potentially have little positive environmental impact, but risks having a negative impact by making livestock production less resource efficient.
The question facing us, therefore, is how to put CAP reforms back on track. At the very least, this will require a more ambitious set of incentives to encourage the efficient application of nutrients, annual soil sampling, precision farming methods, more efficient use of energy and fuel, and the planting of winter ground cover. The EU should offer these measures as a “menu” of options so that member states can choose the three most appropriate ones. Farmers who apply them should be given priority access to the EU-funded Farm Advisory Services and Capital Investment Support under the CAP’s “second pillar”.
Taken together, such reforms would create a virtuous circle of environmental incentives backed by advice and capital funding, driving the farming industry towards the development of more sustainable production systems and Europe’s agricultural sector towards the twin goals of global food security and environmental protection.
George Lyon MEP is the Member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development