On June 25th, 2021, a deal was finally found between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council on the reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The reform, which took 3 years to achieve, outlines how the €387 billion budget is to be spent for the 2021-2027 period.
While seeking to align itself with Green Deal priorities, the revamping of the CAP also sets forth a social conditionality mechanism which will link direct payments to workers’ rights compliance. At first voluntary, this condition is bound to become mandatory by 2025.
An agreement was also found on the highly divisive issue of eco-schemes – that is the direct-payment mechanism through which farmers are rewarded when observing sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural practices. These schemes will be capped at 25% for the entire period, with an initial learning-period set at 20% for the first two years. In terms of ring-fencing, the 25% rate remains considerably lower the 30% ring-fencing initially ambitioned by the EP, with the mechanism also decriable for turning out to be a voluntary rather than a mandatory scheme.
Despite some progress, this reform is considered a missed opportunity by many. Indeed, the new CAP is set to heavily rely on Member States for eco-schemes implementation and fund allocation, with the recently-introduced MS strategic plans already criticized for being highly discretionary and for lacking environmental ambition.
The reform also fails to address key issues such as pesticides transition or biodiversity loss. On the former, negotiators have failed to include a ban on third country product imports which have been exposed to chemicals prohibited across the Union. On the latter, no further requirements or actions have been set by the reform, despite several reports pointing to the fact the previous CAP settings did not manage to halt biodiversity losses.