Increased rates of modulation, an end to set-aside, increases in milk quota and the phasing out of more production-linked support payments are contained in the CAP “health check” proposals, presented in Strasbourg on Tuesday afternoon (20 May).

Addressing the European parliament’s agriculture committee, EU farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said the time had come to push ahead with further reform of the CAP.

“We must clear away obstacles which are hindering farmers’ responses to market signals,” she said. “We must make our support systems more effective, efficient and simple. And we must help farms meet various developing challenges, such as climate change.”

The commissioner then set out in more detail what her legal proposals contain:

* Abolition of set-aside: The Commission proposes abolishing the requirement for arable farmers to leave 10% of their land fallow, in order to maximise their production potential.

* Phasing out milk quotas: Milk quotas will be phased out by April 2015. To ensure a ‘soft landing’, the Commission proposes five annual quota increases of 1% between 2009/10 and 2013/14.

* Decoupling of support: The Commission proposes to remove the remaining coupled payments and shift them to the Single Payment Scheme, with the exception of suckler cow, goat and sheep premia which some member states may retain.

* Moving away from historical payments: Farmers in some member states receive aid based on what they received in a reference period. In others, payments are on a regional, per hectare basis. As time moves on, the historical model becomes harder to justify, so the Commission is proposing to allow member states to move to a flatter rate system.

* Cross Compliance: Cross Compliance will be simplified, by withdrawing standards that are not relevant or linked to farmer responsibility. New requirements will be added to retain the environmental benefits of set-aside and improve water management.

* Article 68: Currently, Member States may retain by sector 10% of their direct payments for environmental measures or improving the quality and marketing of products in that sector. The Commission wants to make this tool more flexible.

  • The money would no longer have to be used in the same sector
  • Iit could be used to help farmers producing milk, beef, goat and sheep meat in disadvantaged regions
  • It could be used to support risk management measures such as insurance schemes for natural disasters and mutual funds for animal diseases

Modulation: Currently, all farmers receiving more than €5,000 in direct aid have their payments reduced by 5% and the money is transferred into the Rural Development budget. The Commission proposes to increase this rate to 13% by 2012. Additional cuts would be made for bigger farms, up to 22% for the largest units.

The funding obtained this way could be used by member states to reinforce programmes in the fields of climate change, renewable energy, water management and biodiversity.

Intervention mechanisms: The Commission proposes to abolish intervention for durum wheat, rice and pig meat. For feed grains, intervention will be set at zero. For bread wheat, butter and skimmed milk powder, tendering will be introduced.

Payment limitations: Member states should apply a minimum payment per farm of €250, or for a minimum size of 1ha or both.

The health check package will now be debated by EU farm ministers and the European parliament, with the aim of signing it off in November.