Negotiators from the European Union will try to reach an agreement on Thursday to make the bloc’s massive farming subsidies more environmentally friendly after negotiations were thrown off last month by conflicts over rules to reduce agriculture’s climate effect.
Negotiations to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been dragging on for nearly three years, with negotiators still divided over how to spend the CAP’s 387 billion euro ($462 billion) budget of payments to farmers and support for rural development, which accounts for roughly a third of the EU’s total budget for the years 2021-2027.
Maria do Ceu Antunes, the Portuguese Agriculture Minister who represents EU member states in negotiations with the European Parliament stated that she was committed to reaching an agreement. The meetings will take place on Thursday and Friday.
Rules to reduce agriculture’s 10% contribution to EU greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard nature from pressures such as extensive irrigation and chemical pesticides are among the sticking areas.
Despite spending 100 billion euros in “climate-friendly” subsidies since 2014, EU auditors concluded this week that the present CAP is failing to reduce emissions. Since 2010, EU agriculture emissions, half of which come from animals, have remained unchanged.
Negotiators are likely to clash over how much money to spend on environmental “eco-schemes,” such as restoring wetlands to absorb CO2, and how rigidly to define such schemes.
In last month’s negotiations, Parliament recommended spending 30% of payments on eco-schemes, while EU members requested a binding 18% share.
Other changes are aimed at halting Europe’s small farm decline. Proposals under consideration might compel nations to shift a portion of CAP payments to smaller farms, or reduce the amount of money farmers receive after reaching a specific threshold, in order to ensure that more money reaches small companies.
Parliament also seeks assurances that EU members’ spending plans for CAP funds are consistent with the bloc’s legally obligated climate and environmental goals.
The new CAP regulations will go into force in 2023.