The complexity of the CAP has always been one of its distinctive features and, many commentators have argued, has been used in effect as a political entry barrier to exclude outside critics and permit decision-making 'fudges' that protect the interests of farmers.
The way in which the new Single Farm Payment (SFP) system is being implemented has increased this complexity with no two member states applying the SFP in the same way. In particular, the various options for 'partial coupling' have been widely used, especially in the beef sector where there were fears of a big drop in production.
Only five member states have opted for the Commission's original vision of full decoupling: Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and the UK. Most of the EU-15 member states have also opted for a historical basis for payments which tends to protect the interests of existing farmers. Only England (not Wales and Scotland) and Finland and Germany intend to make a transition to regional payments.
Five countries have chosen to use the national envelopes option (Finland, Italy, Scotland, Spain and Sweden). These are not stuffed with used euros but are used to make special aid payments to support environmental or product quality objectives.
Only the UK has chosen to supplement the recycling of money into the rural development budget with a modulation top up.