A new partnership with Maltese farmers

I come to Malta at a turning point in one of the biggest and most important policies of the European Union: the Common Agricultural Policy. It is a policy which has to take into account the new realities and the diversity of farming across Europe. This is the basis of the proposals for the new CAP that I have just made.

This is the message I bring to Malta now.

We are a union of 27 member states, with different needs, attitudes and expectations. The EU has a wide range of types of farms, and types of agriculture, with specific inherent advantages and disadvantages, with islands and mountains, with climates that range from Mediterranean to Arctic. We’ve gained in diversity and we have also gained in potential.

I have never been a fan of a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Coming from a new member state (Romania), understanding challenges for agriculture at home and elsewhere in Europe, I believe I know what respect for diversity means. Diversity is an asset for the EU.

More than ever, the European CAP must address citizens’ expectations: food security, sustainable natural resources and a balanced development of rural areas. We all want good quality, safe, diverse food but we also want a better environment, more efficient fighting against climate change, biodiversity and animal welfare. We yearn for more transparency.

With our reform proposal we are putting forward a new partnership between Europe and its farmers, including in Malta. We must produce more and better, yet with fewer resources and in more difficult conditions than ever before – adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change.

This is why the CAP reform proposals that I presented on October 12 stand for a new commitment to support the competitiveness of all types of agriculture across Europe. But in no ways should this policy read as a shopping list where every member state accepts only the ingredients it likes.

The objective of this reform is to promote a resilient, competitive and diverse European farming sector, which continues to produce throughout our regions. We have to maintain an income support for famers and to lay the foundations for a new competitiveness that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. With the new CAP, we are encouraging farmers to consider long-term competitiveness in their daily work, thanks to applying sustainable agricultural production practices.

The efficiency of our ways to support farmers needs reinforcement. The current direct payments, based on a plethora of formulae conceived using historical reference values, have lost their validity and have come under increased public scrutiny and pressure for change.

I believe the reform proposal provides this necessary change. We bring in better targeted income support to farmers, linked to surface area, with 2014 as a year of reference.

Over the next years, the European Commission proposes that farmers in the member states receiving less than 90 per cent of the EU average payment per hectare will cover one third of the gap. On the other hand, farmers receiving more than the average will see their payments gradually decreasing. For Malta, over the period 2014-2020, the direct payments per hectare will decrease by eight per cent, that’s less than 1.5 per cent a year.

Nevertheless, at the end of the process, farmers in Malta will still get more than the EU average per hectare and nearly double in countries with a similar structure and insular conditions for agriculture.

Small farmers – and I know this is one of the specifics of the Maltese agriculture – will benefit from a simplified flat rate support that will give them more time for doing agriculture instead of paperwork.

The new CAP supports farming restructuring and modernisation. It reinforces the position of farmers in the food chain.

The new CAP will put more emphasis on the support for the development of short supply chains between producers and consumers and quality products for the benefit of both.

The new CAP will allow Malta to reserve a percentage of its national envelope for additional payments for areas with natural constraints, in addition to the options available under the rural development programme.

Out of the nearly 10,000 farmers in Malta, 3,000 are more than 65 years old. As a response to this demographic challenge, specific to the whole of the EU, the new CAP proposes a targeted aid for young farmers.

These are the proposals we have made to the European Parliament and the European Council under the new decision-making powers of the EU. These are the proposals we have made to Europe for a new partnership with its farmers.

Mr Ciolos is in Malta today on an official visit.

The author is European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development


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