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EU Agriculture Reforms to Complex

19 April 2012
National Farmers Union

EU - The European Court of Auditors has said that the legislative framework of the Common Agricultural Policy reform remains too complex. In particular the Court said that the reforms focussed to much on compliance rather than performance.

In October 2011, the Commission submitted to the European Parliament and Council its legislative proposals for the reform of the CAP as from 2014. The European Court of Auditors examined the four main draft regulations presented by the Commission.

The report by the Court of Auditors said that despite the reform claiming to focus on results, it remains fundamentally focused on spending and controlling expenditure, which makes it consequently orientated more towards compliance than performance.

With regard to cross compliance the Court says that the policy is still too complex, which will make it difficult for paying agencies and beneficiaries to administer.

With respect to rural development, the Court has underlined the importance of setting out specific concrete objectives that the proposed measures are designed to achieve and of ensuring that support is targeted to rural areas where the aid is most needed.

It is also not apparent of what is expected from cross compliance objectives as well as those of the "greening" element.

The Court has noted the Commission’s intention to direct CAP payments to “active farmers” and to achieve a more balanced distribution of direct payments among beneficiaries. However, the Court considers that the risk persists that payments may continue to be made to beneficiaries who do not exercise any agricultural activity.

The Court has asked the Commission to adopt a general and simple definition of what constitutes an "active farmer".

Discussing the entitlements available to new farmers, the Court is concerned that such availability will no longer be guaranteed in subsequent years. In addition, the Court notes that the requirement to have activated payment entitlements in 2011 (or claimed support under SAPS) in order to apply for entitlements in 2014 is likely to create new barriers to entry for new farmers.

The administrative costs of the CAP reform, in particular of the direct payments scheme, will mainly be borne by the Member States. Extra administrative costs will be imposed on agencies and farmers as the Council doubts that some of the proposed measures can be implemented effectively.

The Commission estimates costs of administration to increase around 15 per cent.

The UK National Farming Union (NFU) has urged policy makers to take on the concerns raised by the European Court of Auditors. NFU President Peter Kendall said the report reiterated many of the concerns the NFU has held since the CAP reform process began.

He said: “The court criticises the European Commission for the complexity of its reform proposals, going so far as to say that it doubts whether the some of the proposals can be implemented effectively without excessive burden on farmers.

“Its report urges the Commission to go back to basics and consider the objectives of the CAP as laid out in the treaty, which is ‘to increase agricultural productivity as well as increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture’. These are wise words at a time when the need to increase food production is widely recognised.

“Now is not the time for setting aside land from production, or increasing the costs and bureaucracy associated with CAP. The final shape of the next CAP will be determined jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. I urge all the decision makers involved to take heed of the Court’s recommendations and particularly consider how the next CAP can be implemented in a way in which we can move forward to a place where farmers’ reliance on public support payments can be reduced.”

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