European Commission’s CAP proposal falls short on health, income and environment

BRUSSELS – Reaching a powerful consensus, all major civil society groups in Europe specializing in agriculture policy agreed that the EU’s massive farm subsidy program should be reprioritized toward public health, farming communities, environmental protection and animal welfare.

The EU’s official budgetary watchdog, the European Court of Auditors, agreed last month that farm subsidies should be “greener.” The agency issued wholesale criticism of the European Commission’s current proposal, including in the areas of farmers’ income, climate change, water quality, renewable energy, animal welfare, and the use of antibiotics and pesticides.

“Europeans have spoken loudly and clearly: they value their own health and the health of their communities over the financial well being of multinational agribusinesses,” Amanda Hitt, Director of Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, said. “Brussels needs to listen.”

Known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) the EU’s farm subsidy program amounted to €58.8 billion this year – 37percentof the entire EU budget. The CAP is periodically reviewed, with the last reform coming in 2013. This past June, the European Commission released its proposed CAP priorities for 2021-27.

Though the details of the CAP are not well understood by most Europeans, 62 percent of people recently surveyed in all 28 EU countries said, “providing safe, healthy and good quality food” should be the top priority of farm subsidies. Nine out of 10 said the role of farmers should be strengthened, and that agriculture and rural areas are important for Europe’s future.

The Commission’s “flawed” vision for the next CAP would continue “perverse subsidies” and “polluting modes of agriculture,” said the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), BirdLife International, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund.

“There can be no more allocating huge amounts of taxpayers’ money to subsidize environmentally-harmful agriculture. Farming should work in harmony with nature and not against it,” the groups concluded in Last Chance CAP. “We must change course and invest public money in nature, the environment, and climate. We only have a few years to turn this around before it is too late.”

Some of the many alarming statistics the EEB says necessitate a dramatic shift in the CAP include:

  • agriculture contributes 10 percent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions, and these emissions are rising,
  • Europe lost 3 million farms from 2007-13,
  • common farmland birds have declined by 55percent in the EU since 1980, and
  • intensive livestock production accounts for 94 percent of all agricultural ammonia emissions.

The European Public Health Alliance’s 11 Ways to Deliver for Better Healthsaid the next CAP should: support healthy diets, minimize antibiotics use, contribute to clean air, address socio-economic inequalities, limit pesticides use, and promote safe and decent work.

The Eurogroup for Animals found that only 1.5 percent of the current CAP budget is spent on animal welfare. “By prioritising quantity over quality of production, CAP led to the use of increasingly productive breeds in systems where animals were confined with reduced or no access to pasture,” according to the group’s CAP Position Paper.

That same small portion of public funding – just 1.5 percent – is devoted to investments in organic farming, saidthe International Federationof Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). “Despite improvements over the past decades, sustainability is still not at the core of the CAP’s architecture,” IFOAM said.

IFOAM is calling for at least 70 percent of CAP spending to go toward the environment and climate. The group also is urging a “new deal” between farmers and citizens to support fair incomes, farm resilience and societal expectations.

Contact: Mark Worth, International Consultant
Phone: (+49) 176 630 94993 (Berlin)


Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington D.C.