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In October 2011, the European Commission presented a set of proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The time needed to complete the complex negotiations on the future CAP, as well as on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-20, has made it necessary to enact transitional measures for some elements of the policy.
On 17 October 2013, the European Parliament (EP) and Council reached an informal political agreement on transitional measures to be introduced in 2014, whilst waiting for the full entry into force of the new CAP rules in 2015. They comprise technical arrangements designed to enable a smooth transition to the new legal framework and ensure continuity in the various forms of support under the CAP. The proposal for a regulation on transitional measures also provides for a number of elements of the CAP reform package to apply from 1 January 2014 (e.g. the transfer of funds between the two CAP pillars, and the possibility to grant redistributive payments to small farmers). Finally, it establishes transitional provisions for Croatia.
Main elements of the agreement
The agreement has been confirmed by the Council on 28 October 2013. Its main elements are outlined below.
Direct payments (Pillar I)
The transitional regulation will ensure that farmers are able to claim direct payments in 2014 under the existing rules. Those who receive direct payments below a certain level, to be determined by MS (with a maximum threshold of €5 000), can be exempted from any linear cuts that MS may need to make to comply with 2014 national ceilings (set out in Annex VIII of the regulation).
In addition, the transitional measures provide for the extension of the main elements of the existing schemes for decoupled aid (i.e. based on farm entitlements through the Single Payment Scheme and the Single Area Payment Scheme). MS will also be allowed to increase the proportion of direct payments used for coupled aid (i.e. linked to production) from 3.5% to 6.5% of the national ceilings.
From January 2014, MS will have the option of taking up to 30% of the national envelope and redistributing it to farmers on their first 30 hectares, or up to the average farm size in a MS if higher than 30 hectares.
CAP structure 2014-20
The current two-pillar structure will be retained through the next programming period. Pillar I will be composed of direct payments (i.e. income support measures for farmers) and market intervention. Pillar II, or rural development policy, will aim to promote rural economies whilst conserving the environment and heritage of rural areas.
Rural development (Pillar II)
Transitional arrangements are also needed to ensure that MS can keep on making new commitments under their current rural development programmes (e.g. agri-environmental measures and investments in particular for young start-up farmers). Where resources for the current period have been exhausted, these new commitments, as well as on-going commitments would be eligible under the new financial envelopes for 2014-20, subject to agreement on the MFF.
Transferring funds between Pillars
Provisions on the transfer of funds between the two pillars of the CAP in 2014 will be incorporated in the regulation.
The report on transitional measures (rapporteur Albert Deß, EPP, Germany) was adopted by the EP’s Agriculture Committee on 30 September. The informal agreement reached with Council on 17 October was endorsed by the Committee on 4 November 2013. The Regulation has to be officially adopted by the EP and Council by the end of the year, so that the measures can be implemented from 1 January 2014.