Unusually, there’s no meeting of the EU’s Council of Agriculture Ministers this month. But there have still been important developments at EU level.
The decision on ‘financial discipline’ affecting the 2013 Single Farm Payment has been formally adopted. This is the mechanism which says that if the EU’s expenditure elsewhere in Pillar 1 goes up (Eg if spending on market support measures for farm products is higher than planned) and there’s a risk of the overall Pillar 1 budget being exceeded, SFP has to be cut in all member states in order to stay within-budget.
This has been part of the CAP for several years but this is the first time it’s been triggered. The cut of just over 2 percent is of course not welcome, but is considerably lower than was originally proposed, and we successfully negotiated down Scotland’s share of the cut.
There have also been two important votes in the European Parliament, confirming formally its approval of the budget deal for 2014 to 2020, and the package of CAP regulations.
You may well have thought that these were both agreed months ago. Indeed, in the case of the CAP regulations, nearly everything was agreed in June and the final details were negotiated in late September. But formally speaking the regulations had not been through the necessary voting procedures.
Now that the Parliament has had its vote, the final step is for the Council to formally adopt the regulations, probably in December – just a few days before the new CAP was originally supposed to take effect on 1 Jan 2014. Clearly it’s impossible to implement things in that timescale, which is why transitional arrangements will apply in 2014.
If Europe learns lessons from this CAP reform round, I hope one of them will be that either the process has to start earlier, so that new rules can be introduced on time, or alternatively that transition arrangements must be part of the reform process and not a late afterthought.