HomeIdeaPAC, the 'last-minute' offer. Consumers are angry too

PAC, the 'last-minute' offer. Consumers are angry too

The manure spread by protesting farmers in Brussels has led the European Commission to launch a 'last-minute' offer of cosmetic changes to the CAP already defined in 2021.

Instead of addressing the real cause of the sector crisis - sales below-cost (1) - Ursula von der Leyen is betting her electoral card on derogating from the minimum environmental sustainability criteria.

The mini-reform proposal has already been approved by the governments of the Member States in the Council and goes to the European Parliament for a vote on 22-25 April 2024. But consumers are also angry.

1) PAC, 'last-minute' offer

On 15 March 2024 European Commission has presented its 'last-minute' offer of cosmetic changes to the rules established for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 2023-2027. With the declared aim of providing greater flexibility to farmers. The 'last-minute' offer involves modifying three of the nine GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions) standards, in the following terms:

- GAEC 8. Elimination of the obligation to allocate 4% of land to non-productive areas, already foreseen only for farms measuring more than 10 hectares, with the sole constraint of preserving pre-existing landscape elements. Farmers could therefore choose whether to keep 4% of their land fallow, and therefore receive financial support from Member States, or not

- GAEC 7. The requirement for crop rotation could also be met through crop diversification alone

- GAEC 6. Member States would have more flexibility in defining the periods considered sensitive and the practices that satisfy land cover in these periods.

Small farms (< 10 ha), in the trade offered by Ursula von der Leyen's Commission, would be exempted from controls and sanctions in these regards. And so, in fact, from environmental conditionality. (2) 

2) European consumers, appeal to the European Parliament

On 4 April 2024 BEUC – the European confederation that brings together the main national consumer associations (e.g. AltroConsumo in Italy) – has urged MEPs to vote against the above proposals. (3) For the following reasons:

  • the changes hastily proposed at the end of the legislature were agreed only with the large agricultural confederations with the main aim of favoring the agro-industrial oligarchies. In the absence of impact assessment and stakeholder consultation, which are instead necessary in the revision of the CAP to which 32% of the European budget is still reserved
  • the proposed reforms do not address the real needs of farmers, such as the ban on sales below cost and the guarantee of a fair price for their foodstuffs. Nor do they solve the problem of the 'double standard' between products made in the EU and those arriving from non-EU countries at zero duty (4)
  • the exclusion of controls and sanctions for small businesses is a mockery that in no way resolves the siege of bureaucracy affecting family and peasant agriculture, recently aggravated also in Italy with the digitalisation of farm logs.

3) Observatory on production costs and margins

The expiring Commission also announced its intention to establish an observatory on production costs, margins and commercial practices in the agri-food chain. (2) Another pre-election scam for those who don't remember that the 'Agricultural Market at ask Force' was introduced in Brussels in 2016 precisely for this purpose, but nothing was done by the von der Leyen Commission in the five years where the speculation to the detriment of farmers and consumers has reached its peak. (5)

Unfair Trading Practices Directive (EU) No 2019/633 must instead be urgently reformed, to guarantee the fair redistribution of the value chain 'from farm to fork'. In this regard, reference is made to what is proposed in the political program of the writer, in view of the European elections of 6-9 June 2024. (6) Clear criteria are needed for an exact measurement of production costs, transparency of prices in invoices and labels, absolute ban of sales below-cost . (7) 

4) Direct aid and simplification, not exemptions in favor of financial oligarchies

European farmers and peasants started a protest in January 2024 that still continues to demand with a single voice, from Wallonia to Sardinia:

  • fundamental human rights to food and means of production sovereignty and a decent income
  • the simplification of a bureaucracy that is impossible to manage for 94,8% of agricultural companies, whose size is family and peasant
  • redistribution of aid from the common agricultural policy in favor of small agricultural holdings
  • direct aid for the ecological transition, for restoring soil health and productivity. (8)

The only beneficiaries of the exemptions proposed by Ursula von der Leyen with the connivance of the large agricultural confederations (e.g. Coldiretti, Copa-Cogeca, Farm Europe) are instead the financial oligarchies that will be able to continue to receive millionaire aid, through the CAP, without the slightest respect for the good agricultural and environmental conditions' (BCAA, or GAEC). (9)

Intensive GMO monocultures (smuggled as 'NGTs') and pesticides galore for everyone. Business is business.

#Shame! #CleanSpades #PaceTerraDignità

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) See paragraphs 1 and 2 of the previous article by Dario Dongo. Farmers' protest, the reaction of the strong powers. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.2.24

(2) European Commission. The Commission proposes a targeted review of the common agricultural policy to support EU farmers. 15.3.24 https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_24_1493

(3) BEUC. Consumer groups call on the European Parliament to reject the CAP revision proposals https://tinyurl.com/yfu8cs3f

(4) Dario Dongo. Protesting farmers, pesticides instead of #fairprice. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.2.24

(5) Dario Dongo. Transparency in the value chain, work in progress. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.3.19

(6) Dario Dongo. Peace, Land and Dignity. Our movement in the 2024 European elections. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.3.24

(7) Dario Dongo. January 31, 2024, the day of the farmers' protest in Italy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.1.24

(8) Dario Dongo. #AgricoltoriUniti, the voice of Sardinian shepherds and farmers in protest. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.4.24

(9) Dario Dongo. The tentacles of finance on food sovereignty and our food. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.3.24

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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