This article is part of our special report Can the next CAP measure its green performance?.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU’s biggest budget item, accounting for around 40% of the bloc’s total spending, or €59 billion per year. The policy is built around two pillars: providing direct payments to farmers and funding environmentally friendly rural development.
Lawmakers approved a major revamp of the CAP in 2013, including strengthened ‘greening’ measures tying payments to environmental accountability. Discussions on the future of the CAP post-2020 are now under way but early indications from politicians involved in the process suggest we are unlikely to see a big departure from the status quo.
The current policy is regularly criticised for failing to protect farmers’ incomes and encouraging unsustainable, environmentally harmful practices. Environmentalists say the ‘greening’ measures introduced in 2013 are failing to halt biodiversity loss, soil depletion and water pollution, while farmers are struggling to make a living and there is little connection between farm subsidies and EU food or health policy.
“A new contract”
In a position paper published on Wednesday (6 September), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of 141 environmental organisations in more than 30 countries, argued that the next CAP should make a clean break from the past and form “a new contract between farmers and society”.