Digital & Precision Farming will get its place under National Strategic Plans

In early April the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament approved the proposals to improve EU farm policy so that it better meets farmers' and consumers' expectations.

The MEPs voted, in three different sessions, three reports that reflect their position on the reform of the CAP, which will be voted definitively next autumn after the EU elections. It should be noted that the new Parliament and the new Commission can still decide to significantly amend these views when they come to power, especially if there are major changes to the political balance in the European elections. The new institutions can also agree to pick-up the work with no change and continue on the same pathway.

Key points advocated by CEMA are still taken on board at this stage. Notably, the Strategic Plans will have to foresee support to digital and precision farming via investment incentives in order to accompany a forward-looking EU agriculture.

Here is a summary of the main views agreed upon by outgoing members of the European Parliament’s committees:  

Strategic plans: New delivery model postponed until 2022

The Agriculture Committee said the so-called new delivery model based on national strategic plans drafted by Member States and approved by the EU Commission should be delayed by one year until 2022 to allow more time for adjustment.

Extending eco-schemes to protect environment and climate but also to increase animal welfare

The voluntary eco-schemes, to be included in national strategic plans, should support not only practices beneficial to the environment, climate but also to animal welfare. MEPs asked the Commission to draft a catalogue of such practices as an inspiration for national capitals. It was decided to dedicate at least 30% of the rural development budget to all types of environmental and climate-related measures and not less than 20% of the direct payments budget to eco-schemes.

Reducing payments to bigger farms, supporting small, young and women farmers

Member states should be obliged to cap annual direct payments to farmers at the level of €100.000 per farm but they may allow farmers to deduct 50% of agriculture-related salaries, including taxes and social contribution, from the total amount before the reduction, MEPs say.

At least 5% of national direct payments envelope should be allocated for complementary redistributive income support to small and medium-sized farmers (maximum 65% top-up per ha). States using more than 10% of their direct payments budget for this support scheme may decide not to apply the capping mechanism at all, says the adopted text.

EU States should use at least 2% of their direct payments budgets to support young farmers. The per-ha top-up should be granted for the first seven years after the application. Further support could be granted from the rural development funding and Member States could support young farmers' investments, including land purchase, as a priority.

MEPs also want Member States to adopt specific actions to promote greater inclusion and involvement of women in rural economies and to use rural development funding to this end.

Boosting farm advisory services

MEPs endorsed the Commission's plan to oblige all Member States to set up farm advisory services to inform farmers about all subsidies-related requirements and conditions, ways to prevent antimicrobial resistance and availability of innovation support and digital technologies. But they want properly trained advisors to also help farmers improve their competitiveness, production and ecological practices, to advise them on producer organisations and farm safety, to assist those who set up for the first time or who want to change their production, to help them reduce the use of fertilisers, sustainably manage nutrients and better adapt to climate change.

Active farmers to be defined by member states

Active farmers, i.e. persons eligible for EU direct payments, should be defined by Member States in a way to ensure that no support is granted to those whose agricultural activity forms only an insignificant part of their overall economic activities. Such a definition, MEPs insist, must preserve the EU's family farming model. Companies, but not groups of farmers, carrying out large scale processing of agricultural produce could be excluded, they add.

Levelling direct payments within member states

Member states should ensure that all per ha direct payments within their territories reach at least 75% of their average direct subsidies by 2024 and 100% by 2027.

Transferring money between pillars

MEPs endorsed the Commission's proposal to allow transfer of 15% of direct payments envelope to the rural development budget but added a condition that the transferred money must be used for eco-schemes.

Transfers from the rural development to the direct payments envelope should be limited to 5%, not 15% as proposed by the Commission, MEPs said. They want to grant an exception only to Croatia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, who could transfer up to 15% of money from the second to the first pillar on condition that 5% would be dedicated to eco-schemes.


CEMA will continue to watch new developments on this key modernization of the CAP as institutions reconvene.

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