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European Commission ready to cut red tape for farmers’ access to subsidies

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The EU executive proposed measures to loosen monitoring, controls and environmental requirements to alleviate the administrative burden of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on growers and member states, according to a document seen by Euractiv.

The eight-page document, sent to the Belgian presidency of the EU Council, will provide the basis for discussion with the EU’s agriculture ministers on Monday (26 February) in Brussels.

The measures are a key demand of farmers, who have taken to the streets in protest across Europe in recent weeks. The demonstrations are set to continue on Monday, with 1,500 tractors anticipated to parade around the European quarter.

The list of actions “take into account the contributions by national administrations, major EU farming organisations and the European Parliament’s agricultural committee”, a Commission press release stated.

The bloc’s executive arm “may consider proposing changes to that effect to the CAP basic Regulations”, which were agreed on by the EU legislators in 2021.

According to the document, the changes to the CAP reform’s basic legislative acts will concern “a limited set of targeted changes and should be adopted relatively soon”.

This set of proposed measures includes structural changes in some of the good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAECs), the environmental requisites to receive the CAP subsidies, the exemption of small farms (less than 10 hectares) from controls of compliance with those requirements, and more flexibility to EU countries who want to change their national CAP Strategic Plans. 

The European Commission intends also to carry out surveys on simplification “from the farmers’ point of view”, to be launched in March.

Among the short-term proposals, which could be tabled by mid-March, there are changing the rules on permanent grassland requirements (GAEC 1), as requested yesterday by the French government. As it is now, it “could lead to loss of income” for certain farmers, the Commission explained.

The executive also wants to introduce changes to the obligation to keep a minimum soil cover in sensitive periods (GAEC 6), simplifying some checks and explaining the use “of the concept of force majeure and exceptional circumstances”, which are the conditions in which farmers who cannot comply with certain CAP requirements can avoid penalties.

Another proposal is to reduce inspections on farms. 

Some of the measures proposed by the Commission echoed a list of demands from member states collected by the Belgian Presidency on 20 February. 

According to the document, seen by Euractiv, EU countries called for a derogation of at least one year for the requirement to ensure a minimum protection of wetland and peatland (GAEC 2), flexibility on the calendar for the obligation to keep a minimum soil cover in most sensitive periods (GAEC 6), to allow crop diversification instead of rotation in certain areas (GAEC 7), and a “structural solution” (after 2 years of derogation) for the 4% fallow land (GAEC 8).

Member states also asked for more flexibility for the unspent funds and looser payment conditions in the eco-schemes, the remuneration system for farmers going beyond the conditionality. 

Another demand – which is not present in the Commission document – was to postpone the implementation of the “social conditionality” the mechanism linking the CAP subsidies to farmers’ respect for the social and labour rights of farm workers, as it is already included in national legislation.

Among the suggestions from the member states is also a prorogation from 2024 to 2025 for the full entry into operation of the satellite control system on land, a call for subsidies for irrigation and a request for the limitation of the administrative burden in the elaboration of the new soil monitoring law.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

Read more with Euractiv

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