Chris Burns off Making Europe's farming more sustainable, equitable, environmentally-friendly and competitive while ensuring quality and fair prices for consumers. The goals of the new Common Agricultural Policy. But is the reform enough to achieve those objectives and will it really be money well-spent?
CB on Hello and welcome to People First, the EPP Group's monthly program on issues with impact on people like you. Joining us to answer some of your questions is Mairead McGuinness. She's a member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. You're also a member of the EPP Group. And this must have been, as a chief architect of the reform here in the parliament, it must have been a real balancing act of interests, between farmers, consumers and environmentalists.
Mairead McGuinness, Irish MEP, on Well it was a balance, and a battle and a compromise, because at the end of the day what we have to do was to try and get value for money, we had to ensure the bud we had to listen to the interests of farmers and consumers and the environmental lobby.
CB It isn't easy, is it?
MM It isn't easy, but the only way you make effective policy is if you listen to all the stakeholders. Now there's a bit of history here, to the Common Agricultural Policy. It's been Europe's longest, most established policy. You and I, when we go shopping, take for granted that somebody somewhere in rain or snow will milk cows, will harvest corn, so that you and I eat. We rarely think about how food is produced. What we had to do in the parliament was say to the public, we need taxpayer support to produce food. Because farming comes way below the average of other sectors. And you and I do not pay the full price for food. These public goods, the environment that you mentioned, water quality, all of these issued are factored into food, but we don't pay the full price for food. So come in, the Common Agricultural Policy.
CB on Exactly, and let's get a little more detail on this with our report before we go to the viewer questions.
CB off The reform reduces the budget of the Common Agricultural Policy, though it remains the largest part of the European Union's 2014 to 2020 spending plan, taking up just under 40% of the funding, or about 50 billion euros a year. Now more than a half-century old, the CAP was established to ensure food security for Europe, stable markets for farmers and fair prices for consumers.
CB off Among the key reforms effective January 2015, farmers in new member states are to rise toward convergence with those in older member states. There's also a so-called "Greening Payment" – where 30% of the spending is earmarked for sustainable farming.
CB off The reform favours smaller farmers and cuts payments for large farms. Individual payments above 150,000 euros will be subject to a mandatory 5% cut, and member states have the option to impose an even larger cut.
CB off Younger farmers – those no more than 40 years of age – would receive additional payments. A small farmers scheme gives member states the option to pay them up to 1,250 euros.
CB off Along with food security, the CAP is aimed at ensuring competitive prices. Milk quotas are to expire in 2015, and sugar quotas in 2017, giving additional time for that sector to adjust.
CB on So Mairead, let's go to our first question, a person from one of the new member states, asking about convergence, that we had in the report.
Vox pop Hello my name is Toreth Busig and I'm from the Czech Republic, and I'd like to know how the European Parliament can support Czech agriculture and Czech farmers.
CB on What he did mean, when I talked to him a little bit more, was that idea of convergence.
MM on OK let's explain that, but take the word convergence, what does that mean. Look, at the moment we have based payments to farmers on historic production levels, but we have new member states who've come in and we have commitments to them. But they're