The European Parliament in Strasbourg has agreed with a large majority to reform agricultural policy. It should lead to European Union policies becoming greener, fairer, more flexible and open. The aim is to increase support for small farmers and to increase biodiversity in agriculture.
MEPs from GroenLinks and the Party for the Animals voted against, along with a few dozen green and left-wing supporters. They believe that the plans do not go far enough. Other parties, including the SGP, believe that the new rules go too far. That makes the proposed policy a compromise.
Agricultural policy, which accounts for a third of the EU budget, has been discussed for three years. For the plans to succeed, all EU Member States must draw up a strategic agricultural plan. The European Commission will check whether each plan meets the standards.
For example, countries must ensure that predetermined percentages of the available subsidies are spent on climate and environmental measures. European income support for farmers will depend for at least 20 percent and later 25 percent on how sustainably the farmers work. GroenLinks and the Party for the Animals would have liked those percentages to be considerably higher and now call them unambitious.
It should also become clearer who receives which subsidies and how they are used. That should prevent money tampering. Inspectors in the Member States will cooperate more closely to ensure that agreements are respected. To prevent the loss of plant and animal species, farmers have to leave areas of land fallow more often.
The European Parliament has also enforced that at least 10% of the available budget goes to small and medium-sized farmers and at least 3% is earmarked for young farmers. As a result, smaller farmers will soon be able to count on a larger share of the subsidies.
There will also be a permanent crisis budget of 450 million euros to help farmers when prices or markets become unstable.