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Document 52017DC0713


COM/2017/0713 final

Brussels, 29.11.2017

COM(2017) 713 final


The Future of Food and Farming

The Future of Food and Farming


1.A new context

2.towards a new delivery model and a simpler CAP

3.a smarter, modern and sustainable CAP

3.1.Using research and innovation to better link what we know to what we grow

3.2.Fostering a smart and resilient agricultural sector

3.2.1.A fair income support to help farmers to make a living

3.2.2.Investing to improve farmers' market reward

3.2.3.Risk Management

3.3.Bolstering environmental care and climate action and contributing to the achievement of EU environmental and climate objectives

3.4.Strengthening the socio-economic fabric of rural areas

3.4.1.Growth and jobs in rural areas

3.4.2.Attracting new farmers

3.5.Addressing citizens' concerns regarding sustainable agricultural production, including health, nutrition, food waste and animal welfare

4.The global dimension of the CAP




1.A new context 

The EU's farm sector and rural areas are major players in terms of the Union's well-being and its future. EU agriculture is one of the world's leading producers of food, and guarantees food security for over 500 million European citizens. The EU's farmers are also the first stewards of the natural environment, as they care for the natural resources of soil, water, air and biodiversity on 48% of the EU's land (foresters a further 36%) and provide essential carbon sinks and the supply of renewable resources for industry and energy. They also depend directly on these natural resources. Large numbers of jobs depend on farming, either within the sector itself (which provides regular work for 22 million persons) or within the wider food sector (farming, food processing and related retail and services together provide around 44 million jobs). The EU's rural areas as a whole are home to 55% of its citizens 1 while serving as major bases for employment, recreation and tourism.

Figure 1

None of these benefits can however be taken for granted. Unlike most other economic sectors, farming is strongly affected by the weather; it is also frequently tested by volatile prices, natural disasters, pests and diseases – with the result that, every year, at least 20% of farmers lose more than 30% of their income compared with the average of the last three years. At the same time pressure on natural resources is still clearly present partly as a result of some farming activities. Climate change threatens to make all of the above-mentioned problems weigh more heavily. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should therefore lead a transition towards a more sustainable agriculture.

The CAP enabled the development of the most integrated single market. It is thanks to the CAP that the EU farm sector is able to respond to citizens' demands regarding food security, safety, quality and sustainability. However, at the same time the sector faces the challenges of low profitability - due inter alia to the EU's high production standards, the high costs of production factors and the fragmented structure of the primary sector. The sector now competes at world market prices in most sectors, leads the field in terms of food product diversity and quality and achieves the globe's highest agri-food exports (worth EUR 131 billion in 2016 2 )

Solid performance but further work to be done

Direct payments currently shore up the resilience of 7 million farms, covering 90% of farmed land. While they make up around 46% of the income of the EU farming community, the proportion is much higher in many regions and sectors. They thereby provide relative income stability to farmers facing significant price and production volatility - which helps to keep the EU's vital high-quality food production base spread around the Union 3 . Their impact is supplemented by market instruments. Areas with Natural Constraints are also the object of specific support.

Rural development policy makes a substantial contribution to the farm economy and vital rural livelihoods in various ways. It supports investments; knowledge-building; supply chain organisation; environmental protection and climate action. Rural development programmes in 2014-2020 build on this and widens provision for innovation and risk management. The creation of the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) gave an impetus to knowledge creation and sharing. However, important efforts still need to be done to facilitate the access of farmers to knowledge 4 .

There are lessons to be learned from the public consultation carried out in the first half of 2017 on "modernising and simplifying the CAP" 5 which confirmed a widespread consensus that the current CAP tools successfully addresses current challenges to some extent only. This covers also environmental and climate challenges, where a majority of farmers and other stakeholders consider that the CAP should do more. At the same time, the excess of bureaucracy has been highlighted as a key obstacle preventing the current policy from successfully delivering on its objectives.

Figure 2

Land-based measures are pivotal to achieving the environmental and climate-related goals of the EU, and farmers are the primary economic agents in delivering these important societal goals. In this context, we need to look at direct payments in order to ensure that a large portion of the EU's actively farmed area is managed with practices beneficial for the environment. The current area-based Rural Development payments build on this foundation. Partly thanks to the CAP, organic farming expanded significantly, to cover 6% of UAA in 2015 compared to 2% in 2000.

The implementation of “greening 6 ” is qualified as sometimes less ambitious than intended, and is identified in the public consultation as the most burdensome and complex element of the CAP which limits its effectiveness. Climate change has in the meantime become an even more urgent priority, with important costs to be faced by the farming community in the future. 7  

This view has also been highlighted by the REFIT Platform, which has put the focus on the excessive administrative burden of the current greening measures, the control and audit system and the growing overlaps between pillar I and II 8 . As indicated by the REFIT Platform, there is a need to reduce the regulatory burden of the CAP and improve its value for money while ensuring the achievement of the objectives and increase its integration with other policy areas.

A first report on the implementation of the current common monitoring and evaluation framework of the CAP, including first results on the performance, will be presented to the European Parliament and the Council in 2018. The Impact Assessment that will underpin the Commission proposal for the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy will take into account all available evidence on the performance of the policy so far (including results of evaluations and input from the REFIT Platform) and will use this information when analysing specific solutions for the future.

A future- proof CAP

While addressing the CAP Treaty objectives, the CAP has kept evolving, increasing the EU added value. It has also substantially increased its emphasis on the environment, climate and the wider rural context in which farming operates. This enabled the sector to increase its productivity by nearly 9% since 2005 while cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 24% since 1990 and reducing fertiliser use with a positive impact on water quality. However, in the absence of stronger and more ambitious policy support it is unlikely that EU agricultural emissions will continue to decrease at the same pace. The CAP must continue stepping up its response to these challenges and it also shall play an essential role in realising the Juncker priorities in full coherence with other policies, especially:

·boosting quality employment, growth and investment;

·harnessing the potential of the Energy Union, the circular economy and the bio-economy while bolstering environmental care and fighting and adapting to climate change;

·bringing research and innovation out of the labs and onto the fields and markets;

·fully connecting farmers and the countryside to the digital economy; and

·contributing to the European Commission's agenda on migration.

At the same time, the EU is strongly committed to action on the COP21 Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Notably, the CAP underpins the policies spelled out in the 2030 Climate and Energy framework, which calls upon the farming sector to contribute to the economy-wide emission reduction target of -40% by 2030 and EU Adaptation strategy. European farming also needs to step up its contribution towards the EU environmental objectives. These commitments cannot be met without farmers, foresters and other rural actors who manage over half of the EU's land, are key users and custodians of the related natural resources and provide large carbon sinks as well as renewable resources for industry and energy. This is why a modernised CAP should enhance its EU added value by reflecting a higher level of environmental and climate ambition, and address citizens' concerns regarding sustainable agricultural production.

The Cork 2.0 Declaration of 2016, A Better Life in Rural Areas, gave voice to ambitious aspirations for the future success of the EU's agriculture and countryside and the contributions they could make to society as a whole. It presents an agenda for reforming the CAP to improve its delivery and bring it up to date to the current day challenges In particular there is a need to invest in skills, public services, infrastructure and capacity building in order to generate vibrant rural communities.

Figure 3

The public consultation underlined the importance of the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) and linked them to a broader need to modernise and simplify the policy.

The Commission's White Paper on the Future of Europe of 1 March 2017 set in motion a wide-ranging debate on tomorrow's EU, calling on the Union and its Member States to interact better with citizens, be more accountable to them and deliver faster and better on what has been collectively agreed, such as the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Commission's Reflection paper on the Future of EU Finances of 28 June 2017 stimulates further this debate, setting out options and scenarios for the future direction of the EU budget, including among other options a degree of co-financing of the CAP and its implications. As recalled in the Reflection Paper, the EU budget should continue dealing with current trends that will shape the EU in the coming years. There are also a number of new challenges in which the EU budget will need to do more than today. In this context, all existing instruments including the CAP will need to be looked at. Hence, this Communication does neither pre-empt the outcome of this debate nor the proposals for the next multiannual financial framework (MFF).

The Reflection Paper on the future of EU finances called for a shift towards new, sustainable growth that combine economic, social and environmental considerations in a holistic and integrated way and stronger focus on the provision of public goods.

This is the backdrop against which the CAP must take the next steps in its evolution – modernising and simplifying, and working hand in hand with other EU policies – to meet a wide range of pressing challenges and bring out the very best from the Union's farm sector and rural areas, with a greater focus on high standards and actual results, and to support farmers in anticipating and dealing with future relevant challenges and developments.

2.towards a new delivery model and a simpler CAP

The CAP needs to evolve in various ways and sharpen its responses to the challenges and opportunities as they manifest themselves at EU, national, regional, local and farm levels. This also includes for the CAP to streamline its governance and improve its delivery on the EU objectives, and to significantly decrease bureaucracy and administrative burden.

The current CAP delivery system relies on detailed requirements at EU level, and features tight controls, penalties and audit arrangements. These rules are often very prescriptive, down to farm level. In the Union's highly diversified farming and climatic environment, however, neither top-down nor one-size-fits-all approaches are suitable to delivering the desired results and EU added value.

In the delivery model of the future CAP, the Union should set the basic policy parameters (objectives of the CAP, broad types of intervention, basic requirements), while Member States should bear greater responsibility and be more accountable as to how they meet the objectives and achieve agreed targets. The CAP objectives would fulfil the EU Treaty obligations but also the already agreed objectives and targets on for instance the environment, climate change (COP 21), and a number of the SDGs. When preparing CAP strategic plans, the Member States will take into account their planning tools adopted emanating from EU environmental and climate legislation and policies. 9  At the same time, Member States would be accountable for providing credible performance monitoring and reporting, underpinning the assurance of the budget.

Greater subsidiarity would make it possible to better take into account local conditions and needs, against such objectives and targets. Member States would be in charge of tailoring CAP interventions to maximise their contribution to EU objectives. While maintaining current governance structures – that must continue to ensure an effective monitoring and enforcement of the attainment of all policy objectives - the Member States would also have a greater say in designing the compliance and control framework applicable to beneficiaries (including controls and penalties).

To enhance EU added value and to preserve a functioning agricultural internal market Member States would take their decisions not in isolation, but in the framework of a structured process that would materialise in establishing a CAP strategic plan, which would cover interventions in both pillar I and pillar II, thus ensuring policy coherence across the future CAP and with other policies. The delivery model will thus continue to ensure a level playing field, preserving the common nature and the two pillars of the policy. The Commission would assess and approve such plans with a view to maximising the contribution of the CAP towards the EU priorities and objectives and the achievement of Member States' climate and energy targets. This is important to ensure the maintenance of a common approach to the delivery of environment and climate objectives across Member States. Increased ambition is the only viable policy option in this regard.

The planning process should be shaped in a much simpler way, remaining clearly below the levels of complexity exemplified by the current rural development programming. This means in particular that prescriptive compliance elements such as measures' details and eligibility rules at the level of EU legislation should be eliminated. Such simplification would also favour integrated and innovative approaches and render the policy framework more adaptive and innovation friendly.

This means the CAP and the Member States plans should focus above all on the objectives and expected results while leaving sufficient room for Member States and regions to address their specificities. In line with the logic of the Commission's "budget focused on results" approach, a future delivery system should thus be more result-driven, boost subsidiarity by giving Member States a much greater role in rolling out CAP schemes, pursue agreed realistic and adequate targets, and help reducing the EU-related administrative burden for beneficiaries. In such a context simplified cost options and modern technologies offer huge opportunities to reduce this burden, in particular as regards controls. Both farmers and citizens should be enabled to benefit from such advances with a less prescriptive framework.

In this way, as proclaimed by the Cork 2.0 Declaration, the architecture of the CAP as a whole would provide for targeting interventions to well-defined economic, social and environmental objectives while reflecting the needs and aspirations of the territories concerned.

Another crucial function of the Commission would of course consist in supervising the delivery on results and the respect of basic EU rules and international commitments in the framework of a well-designed audit and assurance system. To this end the assurance process would need to be adapted to the requirements of a result-driven policy design including the development and application of solid and measurable indicators and of a credible performance monitoring and reporting.

3.a smarter, modern and sustainable CAP

European citizens should continue to have access to safe, high quality, affordable, nutritious and diverse food. The way this food is produced and marketed should adapt to citizens' expectation, in particular concerning the impact on their health, the environment and the climate. To ensure this in a context of growing world population, increased environmental pressure and climate change, the CAP has to continue evolving, maintaining its market orientation and its support to the EU family farm model across all the regions of the Union. Similarly, the CAP needs to support and be compatible with efforts that address the root causes of migration towards the EU.