Two solid pillars for the Common Agricultural Policy

Two solid pillars for the Common Agricultural Policy

August 04, 2017

Two solid pillars for the Common Agricultural Policy

A set of rules updated over the years ensures Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy will be able to shape innovation and respond to climate change and society’s constantly-evolving needs.

It isn’t easy to coordinate and standardise the agricultural policies of multiple different countries, trying to join agricultural innovation with ancient, deeply-rooted traditions, all while keeping up with the times and with new states being added to the European Union. For a while now, this has been the main goal of the Common Agricultural Policy (Susta), held up by two fundamental pillars: the organisation of agricultural markets – ensuring the support needed for sustainable agriculture – and rural development, with continued attention to agricultural innovation and food security, in part to tackle the challenges posed by changing global temperatures. 

These key points guide the choices of European legislators in the agricultural field while offering the flexibility required to ensure the primary goals of the Common Agricultural Policy are reached. The European Community has summarised the goals as meant “to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and ensuring the optimum use of the factors of production, in particular labour; to ensure a fair standard of living for farmers; to stabilise markets; to ensure the availability of supplies; to ensure reasonable prices for consumers”.

Clear rules and support for sustainable agriculture

The need for clear, shared market regulations which help farmers cope with crises and changes in the market is certainly one of the reasons why the CAP was created. 

Common market organisations (CMO) were instituted to manage the production and sale of food-farming products within the European Community. But as early as 2007, with a single simplification act, the 21 existing CMOs were substituted with a single CMO which maintains the original purpose of “ensuring a constant income for farmers and consistent availability to consumers”: in other words, sustainable agriculture and food security. In the most recent version of the CAP, the rules governing the CMO are a sort of “security net” which also provides specific assistance to deal with particularly drastic market disruptions. The first pillar also includes the new direct payment system adopted in the most recent version of the CAP, based on (EU) regulation n. 1307/2013 to introduce more efficient, fairer and “greener” payments. 

The European Parliament website lists the details of the new direct payment policy, which includes fundamental systems that favour young farmers or those who follow agricultural innovation policies that are good for the climate and for the environment. 


The CAP and rural development

The second pillar of the CAP relates to rural development policies, financed by just under €100 billion from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) plus another €61 billion from national contributions. The general goal of these strategies is to develop agricultural innovation, new ideas which have a beneficial effect on the environment and the climate, able to adapt to climate change while staying competitive and innovative. And to specifically guarantee sustainable agriculture and food security, the 2014-2020 CAP identified six priorities which range from sharing knowledge and innovation to bolstering sustainability and competitiveness; from structuring the food supply chain, putting an emphasis on the wellbeing of animals and risk management, to the enhancement and protection of ecosystems; down to the efficient use of resources, the transition towards low carbon emission economies, poverty reduction and economic development. Within the CAP, each country can fine tune an ad-hoc, multi-year rural development programme which meets that state’s specific needs and responds to the shared priorities of rural development. Once approved by the European Commission, the programmes are financed and continuously monitored by a verification system managed in collaboration between the European Commission and member states. 


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