EU - A first set of concrete actions towards CAP simplification have been announced by EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan, on issues related to the guidelines for Direct Payments this year.
In a debate on CAP Simplification at today's Agriculture Council, the Commissioner outlined certain changes which can be implemented this year and explained the further steps envisaged.
Commissioner Hogan said: "Some of the proposals which concern direct payments do not require changing the legislative rules, but can be implemented at the level of our current guidelines, and applicable already this year.
“I intend to follow-up on these proposals by making 6 concrete changes which should facilitate the lives of farmers and national administrations."
They relate to the EFA-layer (Ecological Focus Area), adjacent EFAs, the LPIS (Land Parcel Identification system) and compensation of EFAs in case of wrong declaration.
More specifically, the Commission intends:
- to accept that Member States, that so wish, only need to map declared EFAs;
- to allow flexibility as regards the identification of EFA's in the EFA-layer (concerns hedges or wooded strips and trees in line);
- to allow hedges or wooded strips with gaps up to 4 metres;
- as regards the implementation of adjacent EFA, in duly justified cases, to accept a limited buffer between the boundary and the EFA for the Member States which wish so;
- to accept a simplified approach as regards the identification of some specific types of permanent grassland in the LPIS;
- to allow that a missing EFA may be compensated by another EFA, even if this EFA has not been declared;
In addition to these 6 changes, farmers concerns about the permanent grassland obligation and the classification of land laying fallow were addressed.
The Commissioner intends to consider that pure leguminous crops (e.g. alfalfa) should not be considered by definition as permanent grassland after five years. Furthermore, the period of declaration of land lying fallow as EFA and the period under agri-environmental commitments will not be taken into account for the calculation of the 5 year period for permanent grassland.
Commissioner Hogan added: "Of course, our efforts to simplify the new direct payments regime cannot stop at the level of the guidelines.
“That's why I will be coming forward with a further package of amendments to modify the relevant delegated and implementing acts soon after the summer break."
This second package is intended to cover elements other than the greening (e.g. young farmers scheme, voluntary coupled support and certain aspects of the IACS) and should become applicable, if possible, from next year (claim year 2016) or at the latest the year after.
There will be a further review of the greening rules next year after the first year of application, as pledged by the Commission in April 2014. The aim is to come forward with a further package of measures next year, with a view to having them applicable the following year (claim year 2017).
In the UK the National Farmers Union said that although plans by the European Union’s institutions to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy are welcome, the overall approach lacks ambition.
Gail Soutar, NFU chief economics and international affairs adviser, said: “There is an urgent need to simplify the CAP rules.
“The efforts of the Commissioner and the member states is to be welcomed and the concrete measures presented by Commissioner Hogan to apply for the 2015 claim will provide some limited flexibility for farmers.
“These include providing greater clarity on EFA mapping requirements and the position EU auditors will take in assessing compliance.
“However the overall level of clear ambition falls short of our expectations with respect to implementation in the first year.
“Delays in decision making, failure to issue guidance in a timely manner, the development of an entirely new application process that has proven not to be fit for purpose in England, as well as a failure to communicate the impact of non-compliance, leave farmers in an incredibly difficult and uncertain predicament.
“It is vital that the Commission, RPA inspectors and auditors are aware, that this situation was not of the farmers’ making.
“The NFU continues to call for specific changes to the rules to foresee greater tolerances in cases where farmers are close to fulfilling the new requirements, but unfortunately fall short.
“We look to the Commission to translate the simplification initiative into meaningful action that will genuinely benefit farmers on the ground and will continue to work closely through our Brussels office to understand how the changes to EU Commission guidance documents will apply for this year’s claim.”
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