Greening the Common Agricultural Policy

Written evidence submitted by Michael Cooper, Director, UK Co-ordinating Body for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) (GCAP 04)

Executive Summary

1. This paper summarizes the likely administrative consequences of the EC's proposals of 12 October 2011 relating to CAP direct payments [document COM(2011) 625 final], particularly as regards 'greening' (Articles 29 to 33), and suggests a number of ways in which risks to implementation could be mitigated. It does not address the desirability, or otherwise, of the proposal from a policy viewpoint or speculate on the final form of the reform.

2. As at the date of writing (14 November 2011), the greening provisions had not yet been discussed in the Council Working Group on CAP Direct Payments. There has not therefore been an opportunity to hear the Commission's detailed responses to questions from Member States.

3. Members States have been forced to reduce administrative budgets. Farmers are unable to absorb further administrative burdens in complying with scheme requirements. Paying Agencies will not be able to implement CAP reform successfully without significant simplification.

4. Given this context the most important issues from a delivery viewpoint are therefore to:-

limit the administrative burdens for the Paying Agencies and farmers,

keep the regulations clear and simple from the start,

clarify the meaning of definitions (e.g. eligible land), which should be clear, understandable and explained by the EC with illustrations (for example on the WikiCAP site),

involve Member States in drafting the implementing regulations and rules from an early stage to ensure that the knowledge and experience of the Paying Agencies are taken into account,

give Member States sufficient time to implement the new schemes and

introduce a tolerance threshold for the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS).

General objectives

5. The main focus should be on simple rules and ease of implementation. The objective should be to:-

limit the administrative burdens for the Paying Agencies and farmers,

involve Member States in drafting implementation regulations and rules at the earliest stage possible,

prevent the introduction of complicated rules that subsequently have to be simplified,

clarify regulations and interpretations.

Greening - background

6. Although the EC has removed its original green cover requirement, it has retained the rest of its greening proposals, i.e. crop diversification, permanent grassland and ecological focus areas, which will attract a payment of 30% of the annual national ceiling. Organic farming will automatically benefit from the payment, while farmers in Natura 2000 areas will have to comply with the relevant requirements. These proposal represent considerable additional administrative complexity compared to the current regime.

7. Crop diversification will require Paying Agencies to validate that farms with arable land of more than 3 hectares cultivate at least three different crops, each of which must cover between 5% and 70% of the arable land. At present a single land use code covers arable crops and it will be necessary for Paying Agencies to introduce more to differentiate between different crop types. The crop diversification proposal is therefore at odds with the simplification agenda for both farmers and national administrations. The scheme that preceded SPS had 135 crop codes and the move to fewer codes under the Single Payment Scheme was a welcome simplification for customers, which also reduced the scope for audit criticism due to the entry of a wrong land use code.

8. Under the permanent grassland proposal the reference area would be evaluated on an individual holding basis rather than on a national basis at present. Member States are currently required to monitor levels of permanent grassland nationally under cross compliance and ensure that their area of permanent pasture does not reduce. In the future it will be necessary for Paying Agencies to ensure that individual farmers are not ploughing up permanent pasture. Again the proposal does not meet the simplification test.

9. The ecological focus area proposal will require farmers to ensure that at least 7% of their land, excluding permanent grassland, is left fallow or comprises landscape features, buffer strips and afforested areas. It is likely that a significant proportion of farmers would have to remove areas from production to meet the 7% requirement. This proposal will add considerable complexity to mapping and claim processing, e.g. a need to measure the area of hedges and waterways. Under the Arable Area Payments Scheme the validation of the set-aside requirement produced great scope for farmer error.

Recommendations in respect of 'greening' and other new elements

Definitions (Article 4):

o Member States need clear definitions, e.g. of eligible land, without contradictions between different policies

The greening rules (Article 29):

o Greening will only succeed if it is simple, clear and understandable.

o There should be no requirement to capture new geodata in the LPIS.

o The rules should be stable for the whole period (2014-2020).

o No additional on-the-spot checks should be added, but rather combined/integrated with existing on-the-spot checks.

o Remote sensing should be used where feasible.

o There should be a clear demarcation between greening, cross compliance and the baseline for agri-environmental measures (AEM). Where overlaps exist, i.e. where greening elements are already covered by cross compliance or AEM (e.g. landscape features), performance under cross compliance / AEM should be considered as fulfilling the corresponding greening element without any additional requirements.

Crop diversification (Article 30):

o The definition of crops should be kept clear, simple and objective.

Permanent grassland (Article 31)

o Compared to the present rule for maintenance of permanent grassland, the proposed new greening element would lead to a considerable increase in administrative burden.

o The present rules should therefore be maintained.

Ecological focus areas (Article 32)

o Simple calculation rules should be available for farmers to ascertain whether they meet the requirement.

o Pesticide-free areas might be added as a focus area.

Active Farmer (Article 9)

The active farmer test as defined in the draft regulation would be extremely difficult to implement. Paying Agencies would need to collect and verify information from individual claimants on receipts from non-agriculture activities. There is no easy way of doing this.

o Use 'active farming' instead of 'active farmer' test. Make a clear definition of active farming linked to the definition of eligibility.

or alternatively

o Leave Member States to define 'active farmers'.

Capping (Article 11)

o This rule should be optional, at least the paragraph dealing with the subtraction of salaries.

Small farmers (Article 47-51):

o The implementation of this scheme should be optional for Member States rather than compulsory.

o Member States should be able to decide on the exact criteria.

November 2011

Prepared 30th November 2011