EU Policy. Commission touts subsidy simplification measures to soothe farmers’ ire

The set of proposals will be discussed in an extraordinary gathering of EU agricultural ministers next Monday.
The set of proposals will be discussed in an extraordinary gathering of EU agricultural ministers next Monday. Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Gerardo Fortuna
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A range of short and medium-term actions have been identified by the EU executive to ease the administrative burden on farmers – a major cause of discontent.

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The simplification package, sent to the Belgian EU presidency on Thursday (22 February) and seen by Euronews, is an attempt to answer the complaints of European farmers who have taken to the streets across the continent since the end of last year.

The set of proposals will be discussed in an extraordinary gathering of EU agricultural ministers next Monday (26 February), a meeting outside of which farmers are planning to demonstrate.

Some of the measures presented are designed to grant further flexibility to farmers in complying with the strict green requirements under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), particularly on keeping permanent grasslands and minimum soil cover.

The commission will also open a consultation on the administrative burden linked to the contentious Nitrates Directive, which led to farmers’ protests in the Netherlands and Ireland over the past few years.

“We are easing the administrative burden on our farmers to help them guarantee food security for European citizens,” said von der Leyen who claimed that simplification of the bloc’s agriculture policies at EU and national level remained a priority.

In the package, the EU executive proposed a revised methodology for monitoring using imagery from Europe’s satellite system Copernicus in a bid to reduce the number of on-farm visits by national administrations by up to 50%

The commission claims this should allow farmers more time to dedicate to their core work.

“The message from farmers is clear: they want to be working in their fields, not stuck behind files,” said EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski.

Reopening the CAP

The simplification package is expected to kick off a consultation process on how EU farming subsidies are delivered, desired by von der Leyen.

In the document to the agriculture ministers, the commission mentions considering changes to the CAP regulations agreed upon by EU lawmakers in 2021.

“I think member states will raise revisiting the core instrument during Monday’s Council meeting,” said an EU diplomat.

Among the mid-term proposals, the commission is considering exempting small farms with less than 10 hectares from controls related to the green architecture of the EU’s farming subsidies – which will affect 65% of CAP beneficiaries.

The revision process is expected to be fed by the results of an online survey to be launched in March directly addressed to farmers that will help to identify their main sources of concern on the EU’s agriculture and food rules.

The outcome of the survey will be included in a detailed analysis of the main administrative obstacles perceived by farmers which will be published in Autumn 2024.

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