FFA2019 post-event blog 9:
A CAP for the next generation?
Thursday, May 02, 2019
Opening the FFA2019 session on CAP, Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, presented the rationale for the reforms now on the table.
“I think of the CAP as a contract between the farmer and the people of Europe. In exchange for taxpayer support, farmers guarantee food security, but they also now must guarantee public goods,” he said, addressing the annual forum for the fifth consecutive year. To provide more and better environment and climate services, farmers require incentives. These feature prominently in the reform proposals which make income support to farmers conditional on good environmental and climate practices.
The new CAP system gives prominence to sustainability, not just of soil, air, water and biodiversity, but also of farmers’ livelihoods, the Commissioner stressed. If they cannot make a fair income, how can they be expected to do more for the environment and food security, he asked.
Galina Peycheva-Miteva, a young farmer from Bulgaria, appreciated the Commissioner’s support for the industry because, as she explained, farmers feel the sector is being “demonised left and right and the result is very few people like farmers”. Her farm helps keep alive an ageing and depopulated rural area by providing jobs and socio-economic services, many intangible.
Rejecting a career in hedge funds for farming, she appealed to young people to join the profession which “is full of opportunities and offers many ways to achieve a goal”. But society must compensate and respect farmers, otherwise it will not attract the next generation. Valeriu Andrei Steriu, Member of the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of Romania, spoke from experience as a former young dairy farmer of the difficulties of attracting young people. Money is not the only issue. Other obstacles can be poor quality local education, insufficient medical care and even absence of basic infrastructure such as the internet.
He considered the CAP reforms are bringing a new optimistic perspective for farmers and consumers alike. But he advised against rapid changes. These make farmers “nervous”. If the media reported on successful farmers, he said: “I’m sure more young people would be interested.”
Rudolf Mögele, Deputy Director-General, DG AGRI, European Commission, pointed out that the CAP always tries to strike a balance. “We cannot just work for farmers. We also have to see the repercussions on consumers and society at large.”
Young farmers need the realistic possibility of making a livelihood. That is not something top up direct payments or some form of aid can achieve. “They need to have the confidence that over time, they will make their living from farming.”
Faustine Bas-Defossez, Principal Policy Analyst and Head of Agriculture and Land Management Programme, IEEP, warned that the status quo in agricultural policy is no longer an option. Science is unequivocal: current practices are damaging the climate and biodiversity. Civil society is increasingly vocal in demanding change.
The current reforms must equip the CAP to handle successfully the many challenges the policy faces before the EU’s next major spending priorities are fixed in eight years’ time. “We can’t get this wrong because otherwise we won’t be able to justify the policy in 2027.”
The last word went to Ms Peycheva-Miteva. The CAP is the only security farmers have to deliver the host of goals society demands. “We cannot farm without it and deliver everything that is on that list.”
Watch videos of all the sessions at FFA2019 here >