Will the CAP continue to fail to deliver on sustainability?

By Gabor Figeczky- IFOAM Organics International

A couple of weeks ago, the European Commission adopted a Communication on the Future of Food and Farming, setting out the EU’s direction for the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). IFOAM – Organics International believe that the Communication lacks strategy to realise the Commission’s wider intentions to shift towards more sustainable growth models under the next EU Budget.

It also doesn’t prioritise the expansion of sustainable farming systems, such as organic farming, which can help to lead the way towards an ambitious implementation of Agenda 2030 in the European agriculture sector.A lot has changed since 1962, the year that the CAP was first introduced.

While the CAP has tried to catch up with continuous changes in European food and farming through several rounds of reform, it has resoundingly failed to adapt. The SDGs remind us about the many challenges of which several are also visible in Europe: EU child obesity figures are shocking, crises are hitting the farming sector every few months, population decline in rural areas continues unabated, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly dramatic and biodiversity is disappearing before our very eyes.

With CAP representing almost 40% of the EU expenditure and the Commission proposing a more results-orientated budget post-2020, spending money largely on income support with a limited positive impact on sustainability cannot be justified. EU leaders should ensure in the upcoming EU budget discussions that future CAP payments are grounded on farmers delivering a wide range of public goods based on a whole farm system approach.

The next CAP reform is a huge opportunity we should not miss to promote a full transition towards more sustainable farming in Europe. However, if the current 2-pillar structure is upheld, spending most of the funds in the first, while with more ambitious sustainability schemes remaining voluntary in the 2nd, the next reform risks maintaining the status quo and not giving the necessary impulse to prioritise sustainability.

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