The European Commission has proposed a number of measures, in a so-called Omnibus Regulation, which are aimed at simplifying the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with a view to easing the burden on and making life easier for both farmers and national authorities.
In particular, changes are proposed to Rural Development Regulation, so as to provide for a sector specific income stabilisation tool. This will give member states the possibility to design a tool tailored for a specific sector, which it is intended will make it more attractive for farmers and administrations.
The proposal also responds to the need to provide better means to support farmers in times of market crisis and reflects recent difficult experiences in a number of sectors.
A further substantial change has been proposed to the rural development regulation to introduce simpler rules for accessing loans and other Financial Instruments. These changes are intended to give the necessary boost to make better use of financial instruments in the agricultural sector and providing greater access to capital for farmers, particularly young farmers for whom access to credit is an ongoing problem. The overall aim is to ensure the better targeting of public money and to increase the competitiveness of the farming sector.
In the Direct Payments Regulation, the Commission is proposing to allow member states greater discretion in the application of the definition of an “active farmer”. In effect, member states will be able to decide whether or not they wish to continue applying the existing definition of “active farmer”. If applied, the system will become considerably less burdensome and will substantially ease the paperwork for both farmers and national/regional administrations.
The proposals are part of the review package of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF). The measures will apply to all four of the basic CAP regulations, including direct payments and rural development.
The proposals will require full co-decision, involving the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers and the European Parliament. Brussels is pointing out that the proposed measures are not changing the orientation of the policy and the aim is that these elements, which form part of the recasting of the Financial Regulation, can be in force by the start of 2018.
Commenting on the Commission’s draft Omnibus Regulation, EU Farm Commissioner Hogan, pictured, said: “The proposals are further evidence of my commitment and that of the Commission to simplify the application of rules across a range of areas. In terms of the Common Agricultural Policy, the changes proposed are all important and, taken with the previous simplification actions, will remove a number of key bottlenecks and make a considerable difference in the implementation of the policy, particularly to the benefit of farmers.
“I have been and I remain focused on the simplification of the CAP and I am particularly pleased that a number of the changes proposed today, notably in relation to the IST, access to financial instruments and the application of the active farmer clause, respond directly to the concerns of farmers that I have been hearing consistently since my appointment and throughout my visits to Member States.”