A plenary session of the European Parliament held in Strasbourg on November 23rd finally gave the green light to one of the most contentious versions of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Despite all controversies, the reform was backed by a wide majority.
First drafted in 2018, the new Common Agricultural Policy will be effective starting from January 2023. Several innovative mechanisms have been introduced, including more flexibility and freedom on how member states can implement the new CAP at the national level, social conditionality mechanisms that link subsides to work and employment standards, and the so-called “Eco-schemes”.
The Eco-schemes link roughly one-quarter of CAP direct payments to eco-friendly practices. The aim is to engage farmers in pursuing the Green Deal objectives to combat climate change and preserve biodiversity. Although this is undoubtedly a step forward compared to previous versions of the Common Agricultural Policy, the measure has generated much controversy. The Greens/EFA EP group were especially harsh in their criticism. They would have liked to see more ambition from the European Union on environmental issues, also referring to the objectives set by the European Green Deal.
Because the first version of the CAP was prepared in 2018, long before the publication of the Green Deal, it is not surprising that the alignment between agricultural policies and the European strategy for preserving the environment has not been perfectly successful. European policymakers had to bridge the gap between current policies on agriculture and the bloc’s ambition of a greener and more sustainable farming sector, outlined through the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy.
“The final political compromise includes, for the first time, the concept of social conditionality into the CAP, linking the distribution of direct payments to the respect of certain labour laws”, stated European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski. Speaking to journalists, he later acknowledged that “This has been a difficult compromise, but I think it’s the best that could have been achieved.”
The baton now passes to the Member States, which will have until next summer to outline the individual national plans and present them to the Commission for approval. Leaving aside the inevitable controversies when such important measures are approved, it is difficult to deny that the road to implementing the environmental and sustainability objectives set by the Commission for the next decades is anything but downhill. Technological innovation and its countless agricultural applications like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Genetics could prove fundamental to achieving them.
For this reason, Re-Imagine Europa’s Task Force on “Sustainable Agriculture and Innovation” is working to build a new vision for European agriculture. Farmers must have access to new tools that allow them to improve the sustainability of their businesses while decreasing their environmental impact. It is essential to ensure that the agricultural sector can count on all economic and technological resources to become a cornerstone of this transformation.