Europe: Divided Views on the New Common Agricultural Policy Reform.

The three reports constituting the future CAP were adopted by a large majority. MEPs will now have to negotiate with member states and the European Commission and decide by early 2021 on the CAP rules, which will apply from January 2023.

The agreement obtained on Wednesday October 21, 2020 by the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the adoption by the European Parliament of the regulations governing it on Friday 23, did not find a major echo. It increases environmental obligations for farmers - despite strong opposition from NGOs and MEPs who deemed these proposals insufficient in the face of climate issues.

Even though the CAP constitutes the first budget of the European Union and it fundamentally determines the directions taken by Europe's agricultural system. A dimension that is declining today, as subsidiarity could occupy a preponderant place in the future.

Many hoped that the future CAP would constitute a central lever of the ecological transition supported by the European Commission within the framework of the Green Deal. First of all because the Von der Leyen Commission announced in May 2020 the development of two roadmaps favorable to the development of a sustainable food system: the Farm to Fork strategy and a biodiversity preservation strategy in Europe.

Two ambitious visions, aiming at a reduction in the use of pesticides of around 50% and an increase in organic agricultural areas of around 25% by 2030. Unfortunately, these quantified ambitions for the transition to agroecology do not appear in the text adopted by MEPs.

The budget of the future CAP until 2027 will be just as colossal as during previous budgetary programming, with a total sum of 387 billion euros. The CAP will also retain its historic structure, with a predominant "first pillar", made up of aid paid to farmers based on the size of their farms, subject to compliance with regulatory obligations, and a more modest "second pillar" dedicated to rural development and support for mountain or organic agriculture.

Each member state will be responsible for defining a national strategic plan, specifying in particular the criteria for implementing "eco-schemes".

These programs should promote practices that benefit the environment. Parliament wants to devote 30% of the first pillar to this, ie the same proportion as under the previous CAP for the "green direct payment". For its part, the Council proposes to limit it to 20%. A point of dissensus which therefore remains to be arbitrated.

Beyond that, the specifications for a farmer wishing to obtain this aid will be defined by each member state, and not at European level.

A state may also implement different eco-schemes for different regions. The most pessimistic see in it the end of the common character of the CAP; the most optimistic the possibility of adapting environmental requirements to local contexts. At this stage, the French position would consist in including the HVE certification in the criteria for awarding eco-schemes.

A label which presents different levels of requirements from organic farming and which does not prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides or the use of greenhouses heated with non-renewable energy, for example. However, HVE certification has benefits in terms of preserving biodiversity compared to conventional agriculture.

The long process of drafting European texts provides for the Council and Parliament to react to a Commission proposal. These steps passed, a compromise remains to be found. A compromise that risks leaving those who dreamed of a major ecological turning point for the future CAP to be hungry. But that could still allow some progress in favor of the transition.