With more than 58,000 million Euro per year, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is undoubtedly the largest fund administered by the European Union, accounting for 39% of the latest budget.
As pointed out by Paolo de Castro, Italian MEP and coordinator of the agriculture committee, "Agricultural Policy is very expensive, but at the same time, I think we should explain to our people that this budget is not only for 10 million agricultural producers, but for 450 million people."
So far, the CAP has supported two fundamental activities: providing money to producers to allow them to have a stable income, and the funding of projects in rural areas to make those places more attractive to live. But the European Commission has proposed a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy with nine specific priorities, paying greater attention to the protection of the environment and the biodiversity.
This proposal is backed by a € 365 billion fund for agricultural producers between 2021 and 2027, which is € 5 billion less per year than it has been until now.
For Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa-Cogeca, the strongest interest group representing European producers, this reduction is unfeasible: "We are not even asking for the budget to increase; we only want, at the very least, for it to stay at the same level, so that we can make the necessary investments for a more sustainable production while being able to make a living from this," he says.
But the COVID-19 crisis is forcing a delay in the reform plans. An agreement has been reached for the current system to be extended until at least the end of 2022. However, this also means a delay in possible changes, such as greater social protection for those who work on European farms; a hot topic these days.