MEP own-initiative papers adopted by Parliament

Following the postponement of the Plenary session of the European Parliament, scheduled for 19 and 22 April due to travel disruptions caused by the Icelandic volcano, a mini plenary was convened in Brussels on the 5 and 6 May, at which MEPs adopted three agriculture-related own-initiative reports. The reports on agriculture in Less Favoured Areas (LFAs), the Animal Welfare Action Plan and EU agriculture and climate change were drafted by Italian MEP, Herbert Dorfmann (EPP), Swedish MEP, Marit Paulsen (ALDE) and French MEP, Stéphane Le Foll (S&D) respectively.

LFA Payments Must be Linked to Active Farming

On 5 May, the EP report on ‘Agriculture in areas with natural handicaps: a special health check’ was adopted in the form of a non-legislative resolution, following a single reading with the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in March 2010. The own initiative report is in response to a Commission Communication ‘Towards a better targeting of the aid to farmers in areas with natural handicaps’, which sets out a proposed set of eight criteria for a new classification of agricultural areas suffering from natural handicaps – Intermediate LFAs – and proposes the removal of the socio-economic criterion ‘a low or dwindling population’ formerly used in the classification of these areas.

Mr Dorfmann’s report stresses the importance of an appropriate compensatory payment for Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) as being an indispensable tool to secure the continuation of agricultural land management in these areas, thereby supporting the provision of high-value public goods such as valued cultivated landscapes, biodiversity preservation and other environmental benefits. In addition, the report recognises that farming in these areas contributes to rural employment and the vitality of rural communities. On account of the important relationship between agriculture and these broader social and economic benefits, the report calls for the Commission to take the social implications of the new classification system fully into account.

The report argues that, in contrast to agri-environmental measures, compensatory payments for Less Favoured Areas must not be subject to additional specific conditions regarding the method of land management which would go beyond cross compliance requirements. The LFA scheme must - in principle - offer compensation to farmers who are also land managers operating with significant natural handicaps, stressing that LFA payments must be linked to active farming of the land and the production of food.

It takes the view that the eight biophysical criteria proposed by the Commission could, in principle, be suitable for delimiting areas with natural handicaps, but stresses that the criteria may not always be sufficient for objectively delimiting areas with natural handicaps. Furthermore, the proposed threshold value of 66 per cent of the area may not be suitable in all cases for determining the actual handicap given the great diversity of EU rural areas. The crop grown, the combination of soil types, soil moisture and climate are also factors relevant for the purpose of determining the actual handicap of a given area. The report recommends that the case for socio-economic criteria such as distance from markets, lack of services and depopulation are re-examined.

The Commission has confirmed that in response to the proposals contained within its April 2009 Communication, it has received simulations of the eight proposed soil and climate criteria from all but two Member States - Cyprus and Malta - whose submissions are forthcoming. From now until July 2010, technical experts at the Joint Research Centre together with DG Agriculture services, will analyse the results and assess the likely impact of the criteria, which will be reflected in an Impact Assessment of the new delineation report. Legislative proposals on the revised delineation of LFAs will be presented as part of the overall package of legislative proposals for the post-2013 CAP, which are expected in 2012, with a new classification system likely to be in place by 2014.

Less Favoured Areas are likely to play an important role the debate about the future distribution of CAP Pillar One expenditure, with early indications from the Commission suggesting that a revision to the allocation criteria for future CAP support could take into account the distribution of Less Favoured Areas.

Inspections and Penalties Advocated for Next Animal Welfare Action Plan

At the same mini-plenary hearing, the own initiative report on the ‘Commission Action Plan for Animal Welfare for 2006 – 2010’ was adopted. The report calls for more frequent inspections and harsher penalties to enforce the next EU Animal Welfare Action Plan, whilst insisting that existing rules and structures for coordination and training should first be properly enforced.

These conclusions have been seconded by Health Commissioner, John Dalli, in his exchange of views with the EP Environment (COMENVI) and Agriculture Committees (COMAGRI) in the week beginning 3 May. Praising the report by Swedish MEP, Marit Paulen, on the EU Animal Welfare Action Plan, whose conclusions ‘are very much in-line with Commission thinking’, he stated that the Commission is focused on ‘pushing the enforcement of existing rules’, with a report expected in the second half of 2011. He added that animal transport issues must be seen in the context of other policy areas, such as origin labelling.

The Commission is expected to come forward with its own evaluation of the first Animal Welfare Plan in December 2010 and is working on a Roadmap with an outline of possible changes to EU measures on BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy) for the period 2010 - 2015. Mr Dalli also noted that proposals for a broader Animal Health Law would be published in early 2011.

Agriculture and climate change

Stéphane Le Foll’s report on agriculture and climate change states that through modernisation and more efficient production models, the agricultural sector can reduce its own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve CO2 sequestration in the soil and make use of renewable energies. It emphasises the role of EU agricultural policy in contributing to the mitigation of climate change, and in supporting farmers for their efforts. The report also recommends the use of regulatory tools in view of the instability presented by market volatility and the effects of climate change.

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PUBLICATION DATE

01 Jun 2010

AUTHOR

IEEP

FURTHER INFORMATION

The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.