Co-ops raise concerns over the Common Agricultural Policy reform

Copa-Cogeca, a mutual organisation for European farmers and agricultural co-operatives, signed a Declaration calling for a strong Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to ensure food security across the EU.

Copa-Cogeca, a mutual organisation for European farmers and agricultural co-operatives, signed a Declaration calling for a strong Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to ensure food security across the EU.

The Declaration, adopted by European farmers and agricultural Co-operatives in Brussels, on 6 February, emphasised: “food security cannot be taken for granted”.

The document explained that over the next few years farmers and their co-operatives will face new challenges, particularly due to climate change.

With the European Council agreeing the first cuts in EU Spending in its 56 year history, the CAP budget is also likely to suffer a reduction of 15 percent.

Farmers across the EU have already expressed their disapproval of the budget cuts. In Spain there was a protest of over 3,000 farmers on 7 February, in the Baltic states there were 400 fires lit and as well as actions in other countries.

Speaking at the meeting, Copa President, Gerd Sonnleitner, said: “The current CAP costs less than 1 percent of the total EU public expenditure.  In return it provides the EU’s 500 million citizens with huge benefits. In particular, it provides consumers with a choice of safe, secure, quality food supplies at affordable prices and ensures employment for 26 million people on farms and 10 million in related sectors mostly in the EU rural areas."

Mr Sonnleitner added farmers throughout the world are facing huge challenges. He explained how climate change is “resulting in more violent storms, more prolonged drought and changes in the growing season”.

He continued: “Farmers and agri-cooperatives are the first in line to face these increased risks.  Without the CAP, consumers would bear the brunt of them too. Food security can no longer be taken for granted.  A strategic sector – agriculture – demands a strategic policy. Now is not the time to weaken the CAP. We need a strong CAP, backed by a strong budget, more than ever before. There must be no cut in the CAP budget.”

Cogeca Vice-President Antónia Figueiredo, also said: “Rising input costs which barely cover market prices are hitting farmers and agri-co-operatives hard. Market volatility is also one of the biggest ones confronting them at the moment as well as unfair, unbalanced and abusive practices in the food chain. To respond to these, we need different and tailor made solutions.”

Ms Figueiredo said these solutions are delivered through the CAP both in its first and second pillar. She added: “We need to make farming even more efficient, profitable and modern. We need investment support for farmers to enable them to become more efficient which in turn will help the environment and also reduce costs. We need a good agreement on the budget to ensure a strong CAP. We need to put a stop to the uncertainty farmers are facing, and for that a rapid agreement is needed”.

The CAP represents over 40 percent of EU budget expenditure and is the most expensive of EU policies. However, with world food demand expected to rise by 70 percent by 2050 and fears mounting over the extreme volatility on agricultural commodity markets and poor weather conditions, Copa-Cogeca argue the CAP will play a key role in addressing these concerns.

CAP Reform brings new challenges to agriultural co-ops

Under Pillar 1 farmers across the EU receive direct payments that account for around three-quarters of the CAP Budget. One-quarter of the CAP is spent on rural development measures under three broad categories.

The current CAP reform proposal suggests a 15 percent transfer of funds between pillars. Copa-Cogeca does not welcome the 15 percent transfer of funds between pillars, arguing farmers need subsidies to face various challenges, such as market volatility or climate change.

Copa-Cogeca also believe farmers must have much more flexibility at EU level when applying measures to further green the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Copa-Cogeca say they will work with MEPs on the proposals to help ensure this.  The two organisations expressed their concern over the fact that “greening” must not undermine farmers’ production capacity or increase their costs, particularly when they are hit hard by production costs and bad weather conditions.

Copa-Cogeca also call for more efficient measures to manage the market.

A recent agri-report of the European Commission showed that when co-operatives have a high market share, prices to farmers are also higher and volatility can be reduced.

Copa-Cogeca also welcomes Commissioner Dacian Ciolos’ recent plans to take a more flexible approach on greening through his concept paper on equivalence measures.

Copa-Cogeca are particularly concerned about the Commission’s proposal to create Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) under the CAP which would mean reducing the amount of agricultural land available for production by 7 percent. This will mean less raw materials for the food industry and less feed for livestock.

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