European Young Farmers gathered in Brussels on 7th and 8th April at their General Assembly and Working Groups and met with EU policymakers to address the issue of post 2013 CAP reform. The key question posed to the Chair of the European Parliaments Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, MEP Paolo De Castro as well as other MEP’s and speakers was ‘Who needs the CAP?’.
Opening the day’s morning discussion, Joris Baecke, President of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), told the audience of around 70 national delegates of young farmer organisations from across Europe that ”the historic payment model has less and less legitimacy in future”.
He also highlighted some positive signals coming from EU consumers, such as that of Eurobarometer on 31 March 2010 which indicated that “An overwhelming majority (90%) of European citizens consider that agriculture and the rural environment are vital issues for Europe's future” or the 70% that “take the view that financial assistance to farmers in the European Union over the next ten years should increase or remain more or less the same”
MEP Paolo De Castro maintained that it is essential to legitimise the CAP to EU citizens since it is “a policy which benefits all of European society” which “provides essential services from food production, biodiversity, environmental protection to maintaining the economic and social vitality of rural areas”. Furthermore he highlighted the European Parliaments criticism of the Commissions communication on the EU2020 Strategy: “the green economy was featured in the Commissions document without a single reference to agriculture”.
Regarding the CAP’s two pillar structure, he noted that there was a damaging tendency to see the “two pillars as separate or competing factions, rather they are both part of one large project”. 3 key principles for a modern CAP according to Mr. Castro are “promoting the production of public goods related to direct payments, promoting rural development to favour parallel structural interventions for use of sensible resources, water and energy and ensuring that food production is qualitatively and quantitatively adequate to the demands of European society.”
With talk of the reducing the CAP’s budget to 32% of EU expenditure, MEP Reime Boege of the European Parliaments Committee on Budget noted that “in the current financial framework funds are very limited”. Farmers often tend to try to save the budget according to Boege, rather they could work proactively in order to expand it. Mr Boege hinted that given the importance of innovation in agriculture, using the EU’s budget for Research for agriculture could be a possible option especially since the sector itself already provides know-how and innovative ideas.
Gerfried Gruber of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) also highlighted that latest work of the EU consultative body, which released an official opinion on future of the CAP in March. According to Gruber the EESC is in favour of the European Agricultural Model "which has to be defended in the light of open international markets". Furthermore "CAP funds are necessary to maintain a multifunctional agriculture throughout the EU..towards sustainability objectives and to avoid land adandonment and regional concentration of farming."
Following the open session, the rest of the day was dedicated to internal issues, from which we can positively welcome Macra Na Feirme, the Irish Young Farmers' organisation, back into the CEJA family.
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