All of proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2020 must reduce red tape for farmers, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan has said.

Speaking at a Farm Europe event in Brussels this week, he said that there has been a clear realisation that, partly as a result of the co-decision process, the complexity of the final legislation left all parties involved unsatisfied with the final result – thus the need for CAP simplification.

Last week, the Commissioner launched a 12-week public consultation on the simplification and modernisation of the CAP.

Commissioner Hogan reiterated that the next CAP has to ensure greater market resilience, more sustainable agricultural production and progress on generational renewal.

Commenting on a report presented at the event on the Global Food Forum, the Commissioner said that he was pleased to see that it acknowledged the need to "strengthen the resilience of our farms" and a particular focus on risk management tools.

"2015 and 2016 were difficult years for farmers and the European Commission had to intervene on a number of occasions to support hard-pressed producers, mobilising over €1.5 billion in taxpayers' money.

"The Commission's actions are a demonstration of our commitment to stand by our farmers, but intervention of this nature is not sustainable and we need to look, therefore, at how we ensure that we have an effective toolkit at our disposal to react quickly and effectively in the event of future price shocks."

He said that the public consultation addresses these issues by asking questions such as:

  • Do existing tools allow us to intervene sufficiently and quickly enough at a time of crisis;
  • Should farmers have greater built-in measures to help them in times of crises on the basis of a risk management approach;
  • Do producers and processors have the ability to diversify their markets or to find new markets in times of market loss.

"I'm sure that there may be different views and opinions on these questions, but I think that the answers we receive will help us to focus on what we need in terms of modernising our policy to deal with issues such as market volatility."

There is one thing on which I would like to give some reassurance and that is: despite the emphasis on appropriate measures to ensure greater market resilience, I am also determined to maintain basic income support and an effective safety net through a system of direct payments.

"That continues to be an essential element of the CAP without which the viability of perhaps tens of thousands of farmers would be seriously compromised.

"Sustainable Agricultural Production is another area addressed in the public consultation, and something that all of us must embrace. I have urged all stakeholders to engage in a meaningful and constructive debate and to abandon the rhetoric and megaphone diplomacy of the past."

Smart farming

Looking at the issues around productivity and smart farming, the Commissioner said that he is convinced that a new generation of farmers, who might more accurately be described as agri-scientists or agri-innovators, have the potential to make the step change that is necessary if all of the objectives and ambitions for sustainable and competitive production in Europe are to be met.

"I agree that more innovation and digitalisation must be part of the policy for several important reasons, including reducing harmful inputs, but also to provide better profit margins to help farm viability and future investments which lead to jobs and viability in rural areas."