The EU Common Agricultural Policy

We want a fair, green and healthy CAP

We call on policy makers to build a better food and farming system in solidarity with people and regions across Europe. It is time for governments to put the public interest before big business. We need a fundamental reform of the CAP to create a better and sustainable society, driving change beyond the narrow proposals currently being discussed.

We delivered the open letter signed by more than 114,000 European citizens to EU agricultural ministers when they were discussing the future CAP in Brussels on November 19th 2018.

The open letter demands:

A fair CAP, delivering fair revenues to farmers that cover their costs of production and decent working conditions both for farmers and farm workers. It must reward those who make a transition to sustainable farming. It must promote local producers over global corporations, minimise resource use and prevent the exploitation of people in developing countries. The current per-hectare farm payments must stop and be replaced by targeted funding and support that promotes the transition to a sustainable society. The CAP must not harm food production capacities of small-scale food producers in Europe and in developing countries. Trade distorting CAP measures that lead to the destabilisation of markets at the local, national, European and international levels must end.

A green CAP, halting biodiversity loss, minimising the use of pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics, ending intensive livestock production, reducing waste and radically cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It must promote a resilient and diverse food and farming system, and provides at least 50 percent of CAP funding for measures that protect and promote nature, the environment and climate.

A healthy CAP, prioritising healthy, nutritious, seasonal, local and affordable diets with fresh fruits and vegetables and makes these accessible for all citizens. It must support legumes and promote the consumption of less and yet better meat. It must take care of people, animals and our planet.

A CAP for the people, spending public money on public goods. It must serve communities and consumers, and not corporations. We demand that the so-called strategic plans of the CAP are developed in a participatory way, with local authorities and civil society organisations. They should explicitly seek the participation of farmers that are willing to embrace the transition towards sustainable farming and enable the participation of small-scale farmers and their organisations.

The goals of a fair, green and healthy CAP are universal, which is why we demand that all Member States deliver on the entire set of objectives set by the new CAP. These objectives need to be supported by impact indicators that allow setting specific goals and track performance. Funding to Member States and farmers must be conditional upon achieving the objectives.

We need binding safeguards prohibiting the use of interventions deemed harmful for the environment, animal welfare, the rights and health of small-scale farmers and workers, and which have adverse external effects, coupled with a binding and purposeful accountability and monitoring system. Those that break rules should not receive public money.


About CAP

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a European Union policy dedicated to agriculture and rural development. It was implemented 1962 and was the first budgetary item of the EU. At that time, it aimed at developing agricultural production to feed the European people after the end of the Second World War, a goal it quickly achieved. However, the steady increase of European production has led to perverse overproduction now.

Since inception, the CAP has been reformed multiple times, including a major one in 1992. One key change was in intervention strategy, aligning the CAP to the rules of the World Trade Organisation. The last reform took place in 2014 and the reform negotiation process is in full swing for the next CAP cycle which begins in 2021.

Today the CAP accounts for about 40% of the EU’s budget. It remains the EU’s most integrated policy, i.e. the one with the most decisions made at EU level.

The CAP is divided in three approaches, each having different goals and operating schemes:

  • The first pillar amounts to 70% of the CAP’s budget. It grants direct aids to farmers. These mean a basic income based on the amount of land used. There is no link to how the land is used and what is produced. — The second pillar is concerned with agri-environmental measures and rural development. It is financed in part by the EU and also by Member States, under what is called co-financing. This part of the CAP provides financial support to new farmers as well as to farmers facing a competitive disadvantage due to their geographical position or their production methods. It also supports the farm’s evolution towards greater competitiveness or environmental-friendly practices.
  • The common market determines how the EU may intervene on markets for agricultural products in cases of crisis. It also serves as safeguard to imports and exports of agricultural products.

As it is today, the CAP encourages practices of intensive agriculture, cutthroat competition on international markets and corresponding farm expansion. This is instead of providing European citizens with healthy food, supporting rural communities, improving the desirability of the farming profession. The CAP does not encourage environmental and biodiversity protection, improved animal welfare, climate change mitigation or the protection of famers in the Global South

Nonetheless a common agricultural policy remains crucial. First, European farmers need support to face the severe competition of non-European products, imported from places with sometimes lower production standards and costs.

Secondly, farming not only produces our food, but many other public goods on which we rely (such as reducing the dependency upon imports, preserving the landscape, creating dynamic rural areas, maintaining a diversity of culinary traditions and fighting against land use change which threatens soil quality). These services are not reflected in the very low selling price of produce.  

Thirdly, a common policy can strengthen a collective voice in light of the need to defend European interests against major global exporting powers and agribusinesses, cultivating food sovereignty, protecting the environment mitigating climate change and restoring of biodiversity.

The CAP thus needs a major, in-depth reform to win back its  legitimacy as a public budget. It must become a policy at the service of all farmers, but also of all Europeans. To get there, blind financial support, uncoupled to good farming practice must be abandoned, and room made for a ‘public money for public goods’ approach. The post-2020 CAP needs more coherent governance, greater transparency, and be easily understood by farmers and citizens alike.


Read an introduction to the CAP here, and find more info material on the CAP see here.

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