EU auditors reject CAP reform proposals

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Livestock

EU auditors reject CAP reform proposals
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has dismissed the Commission’s proposals for a reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) as “too complex”.

In particular, the Court pointed out the vague definition of an “active farmer”​ and the capping of subsidies, which it said would have “limited”​ effects on redistribution.

It added that the legislative framework surrounding the granting of subsidies would make the new CAP difficult to implement, and increase red tape for authorities and farmers.

“As a way out of this difficulty, the Court suggests adopting a general and simple definition of what constitutes an 'active farmer' and to entrust the Commission with the task of managing the implementation of the resulting legislation with a view to reaching the high level objectives set out in the Treaty [of Brussels, 1975]. These objectives are to increase agricultural productivity as well as increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture,”​ the Court said.

Despite recognising the efforts made by the Commission to simplify the CAP, the Court deemed that the policy remained too focused on controlling expenditure and compliance, and not enough on results and performance. It pointed out that the proposals do not outline specific objectives for the direct payment to farmers, or the type of indicators used to measure results.

“Similarly, the objectives and qualitative and quantitative results that are expected of the implementation of cross compliance obligations as well as of the ‘greening’ component of direct payments are not adequately laid down. The disclosure of such objectives would help focus the policy on delivering the desired results,”​ it added.

The Court also noted that the availability of subsidies for young farmers were not guaranteed beyond 2014 in the new text.

It advised the Commission to give information on how increased efficiency could offset the 15% expected increase in managing costs for member states, and to review their control systems at the beginning of the financial year in order to avoid financial corrections in case of failures.

The UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) welcomed the opinion and urged policy-makers to take it into consideration. “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,”​ said NFU president Peter Kendall.

The Court’s opinion will be presented in the European Parliament at the end of April.

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