European Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development – Bruxelles
In late November last year, I officially outlined my vision for the CAP post-2020, as the European Commission published a Communication on the Future of EU Food and Farming. This document is not a legislative proposal – I prefer to think of it as a roadmap for the next evolution of the policy.
The contents of this document have been informed by a number of factors.
First, the CAP remains a far-too-complicated web of bureaucracy and red tape; it is far too complex to administer for farmers and authorities alike. Simplification has been my priority as Commissioner from day one and I have exhausted every possibility for simplifying the CAP using secondary legislation. If we want to significantly reduce the administrative burden on farmers then we have to make changes using primary legislation.
Second, it is clear that the CAP must make a stronger contribution to the EU’s ambitious climate and environment targets. The EU is leading the global fight against climate change at a time when others are shirking their responsibilities, therefore all sectors of the economy must do more, and agriculture is no exception.
In Italy, and the Mediterranean in general, you face a number of environmental challenges, in particular challenges associated with water availability such as high risks of droughts and soil erosion. Climate change and pressure on natural resources will continue affecting farming and driving food security challenges. If we are going to mitigate this, then the new CAP should reflect the higher ambition of the European Union towards resource efficiency, environmental care and climate action. I am fully aware of the efforts Italy is already making to improve water conservation and sustainability. This is extremely important work. Farmers are our boots on the ground for delivering on our environmental objectives. They need to be brought in to the solutions and be paid for it.
We propose to achieve this win-win of simplification and environmental progress by giving Member States greater autonomy to design schemes that fit their climates and farming practices. The current one-size-fits-all system simply doesn’t deliver enough results, because what works in Northern Finland does not necessarily work in Southern Italy.
So how will the new system work? It’s quite simple: basic policy parameters and objectives will be set at EU-level. Member States will then design CAP strategic plans to meet these objectives and targets. The Commission will approve these plans thereby ensuring that MS will deliver the required result. The Commission will closely monitor progress towards achieving these results and step in where appropriate.
In order to maintain a sustainable farming sector in the future, we must also do more to make farming an attractive profession for young people. In Italy, only 4.5% of farmers are under the age of 35, which is just below the EU average of 6%. I believe that generational renewal should become a priority in a new policy framework. The Communication acknowledges the considerable obstacles young farmers face when starting up farming activity. However it is the Member States and not the EU which are in the best position to stimulate generational renewal through such instruments as land regulation, taxation, inheritance law and territorial planning.
One in five Italians live in rural areas and rural development is still a crucial part of the CAP. The LEADER programme plays an important role in improving rural life as it empowers rural people themselves to tackle development gaps they have identified. It builds capacity of local communities and puts them in the driver’s seat to steer their own growth and development paths. In order to exploit the full potential for rural growth, rural areas must be attractive places for people to live and work thought the different stages of their lives.
Finally, it is clear that farmers and rural areas can contribute even more to many EU policies which benefit our 500 million citizens. Therefore I want the CAP to work closer in harmony with Commission priorities such as:
• boosting quality employment, growth and investment;
• harnessing the potential of the Energy Union, the circular economy and the bioeconomy;
• bringing research and innovation onto our farms;
• and fully connecting farmers and rural communities to the digital economy.
I believe these changes, supported under a strong and well-funded CAP post-2020, can make a huge positive impact on our farmers, on our rural areas, and on our society as a whole. The Common Agricultural Policy is a policy that affects all citizens. I encourage you to read the Communication and learn how a smarter, greener, more dynamic EU agriculture policy can benefit you, your family, and your community in the future.