The EU lacks a clear direction for agriculture and must promptly revamp its substantial subsidy program, known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in order to prepare for the inclusion of Ukraine, a major player in farming.
During POLITICO’s Future of Food & Farming Summit on Thursday, Dacian Cioloș, a former agriculture commissioner and European lawmaker, delivered a difficult message. The summit coincided with a dispute between Kyiv and eastern member countries of the bloc regarding an excess of Ukrainian grain.
Currently, we face a temporary obstacle of handling the shift in exporting cereals from Ukraine. According to Cioloș, the Commission lacks a clear plan on how to address this issue. From my perspective, it seems that we tend to wait for problems to arise before attempting to find solutions.
The Commission’s term is set to expire next year and the next proposal for revamping the CAP, which makes up one third of the EU budget, will not be presented until the latter half of 2025. According to Cioloș, who previously served as farm commissioner and prime minister of Romania and now represents the liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, this timeline is too delayed.
Brussels has held out the long-term prospect of EU membership as a strategic anchor to help Ukraine prevail in its war of resistance against Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022.
However, Ukraine possesses a significant portion of Europe’s farmland, including some of the most fertile soil globally. This could potentially disrupt the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which ties subsidies to farm size.
During an interview at the food and farming summit, Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Kęstutis Navickas stated that agriculture will likely be the most challenging aspect of Ukraine’s accession negotiations.
Navickas stated that it is important to discuss the significance of having Ukrainian agriculture as a part of the family, both now and in the future.
In response, Mihail Dumitru, the deputy director general of the Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture, acknowledged that the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and climate change have been significant. However, it is important to remember that the EU has successfully ensured the security of food supply for its citizens.
“For the last four years we have been permanently in this crisis management mode rather than business as usual,” said Dumitru. “We managed to keep the European food system, despite some disruptions, operational.”
In regards to Ukraine, Dumitru stated, “The war has greatly sped things up. We never expected to face such a significant food security problem.” He also mentioned that the EU was still in the process of familiarizing itself with Ukraine.
According to Faustine Bas-Defossez from the European Environmental Bureau, the EU’s reaction to the crisis involved waiving regulations meant to protect biodiversity in order to promote higher levels of farming production. This has led to an increase in the cultivation of crops for animal feed rather than for human consumption.
Looking ahead to the upcoming version of the CAP, which is set to take effect in the next EU budget period beginning in 2027, she stated that area payments would need to be eliminated.
Bas-Defossez suggested that the upcoming revision of the CAP (expected in 2027) should include a gradual elimination of area-based payments. This may have a negative impact on certain farmers, so it is important to consider implementing a transition plan to assist them in adopting more sustainable farming methods.