The future of agriculture and food production was the main subject of the yesterday’s debate of the EU Council of Ministers of Agriculture (AGRIFISH). The Ministers discussed the content of the European Commission’s communication on the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020.
Photo. Debate of the EU Council of Ministers of Agriculture (AGRIFISH)
For the Polish Government, the meeting of AGRIFISH was attended by Minister Krzysztof Jurgiel, who had submitted for discussion the issue on the contribution of the Cohesion Policy and other EU policies post-2020 to the rural development.
Three directions of the debate
The Bulgarian presidency focused the debate around 3 major issues: the future of direct payments, new “green architecture” and measures to support rural development.
In his address, Minister Jurgiel pointed out that the problems in rural areas and development barriers should be liquidated in an unanimous way, also in financial terms, primarily with regard to the development of enterprise, creation of new jobs, improving living standards in rural areas.
Bridging the still existing development gaps among the Member States as well as among urban and rural areas requires a significant and complementary involvement of many EU policies, including the Cohesion Policy. For this reason, Poland welcomes the mechanism for verifying the impact of various policies on rural situations (so-called rural proofing), as proposed in the EC communication.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan treated the Polish proposal very positively. Also several ministers supported the Polish approach to supporting the rural development from the Cohesion Policy.
In the field of direct payments, it is important for Poland to fully align EU subsidies (the so-called external convergence). Direct payments are still based on the historical production levels, although currently all farmers in the EU must meet the same requirements and objectives, which are strongly linked to management of the utilised agricultural area. Poland supports the proposal for mechanisms to better focus support on small and medium-sized farms.
Minister Jurgiel also argued that there is a need to maintain coupled payments in the sectors of particular social, economic or environmental importance so as to preserve the diversity of EU agriculture. This form of payment should support, in particular, the sectors requiring a high labour engagement and environment-friendly (e.g. high-protein crops, etc.) and subjected to the greatest competitive pressure resulting from agreements liberalising EU trade .
According to Poland, the second pillar of the CAP plays an important role. Poland expects that post-2020 support under this pillar will serve to align the development levels of agriculture and rural areas among the Member States, in particular between the East and West of the EU. Therefore, Poland considers that appropriate financial resources should be provided in the future CAP budget and that their allocation should be based on the existing cohesion criteria reflecting the development gap among the countries and regions.
The Ministers also exchanged views on the review of the European strategy on bioeconomy and the role of agriculture in this field. The Commission announced the preparation of the strategy in the second half of 2018. The Ministers pointed to a need to develop research with regard to new technologies and innovative production methods and to ensure that new solutions are available to farmers. To this end, information measures and advice to farmers are necessary. The Ministers stressed that primary producers (farmers and foresters) in the value chain should be empowered. It is also important to increase synergies among various policies and programmes.
Once again, Poland mentioned the BIOEAST initiative, which is an opportunity for the Central and Eastern European countries. It creates opportunities for these countries to make better use of their bioeconomy potential, inter alia, through the greater use of the Horizon 2020 funds on research in this field.
Commissioner Hogan presented a roadmap for the “EU protein plan”. The European Commission is going to publish the protein plan by the end of 2018.
Under the preparatory work, 4 thematic workshops regarding the following topics will be organised: research and innovation, agronomy, supply chain, market potential. As part of consultation, the Commission will prepare and provide the Member States with a questionnaire containing the questions in this respect.