The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the EU’s biggest budget item and a divisive issue within the bloc. The last major revision of the policy was approved in 2013 and took effect in 2015, after months of discussions over how to improve environmental accountability and ensure subsidies support good practice.
But the reforms proved highly complex and in 2016 further measures were introduced to simplify them.
However, to date, criticisms of the CAP’s two-pillar structure remain unaddressed. The first pillar, worth around €308bn for the budget period 2014-2020, provides direct payments to farmers in the form of income support and incentives for environmental good practice.
The second pillar, worth around €99bn, focuses on rural development. Programmes are devised at national or regional level to meet local demands and must be approved by the European Commission before implementation.