Friday, April 27, 2012

Completing CAP reform on time

In this week’s issue of Agra Europe, editorial director Chris Horseman, who is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable observers of the CAP, suggests that the deadline of January 1, 2014 for the new CAP could be missed unless EU leaders can conclude the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations by the end of this year.

Horseman argues that the crux of the problem is the fact that MEPs have taken the view that they are not in a position to pass judgement on how CAP spending should be allocated in 2014-2020 if they do not know how much overall spending will be available. Therefore, the need for their Council counterparts to agree a financial framework to provide funds for the Single Farm Payment system becomes an imperative.

However keen the European Commission may be to keep the negotiations on the reform of the CAP and on the future MFF technically separate, the two issues are politically inseparable, Horseman says, before exploring the ramifications and potential scenarios instigated by the deadline for CAP reform being missed.

It has been my view for some time that the deadline would be missed and that January 2015 was a more likely date. It has also been my view that the involvement of the European Parliament would slow down the process and make reform more difficult to achieve. The requirements of a democratic process mean that it should be involved, but the effect on outcomes may be less desirable.

The crux of the issue is that when European domestic governments are practising austerity, and are likely to do for some time to come whatever the calls for a growth strategy, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the share of the EU budget devoted to the CAP. There is a high 'opportunity cost' in terms of money that could be spent on infrastructure projects that would help employment and research and development that would enhance Europe's flagging competitiveness.

Even within the farm budget there is a strong case for spending more on applied research which would help European agriculture to meet food security challenges in a sustainable way much more than blanket subsidies.

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