The future of Andalusian agriculture depends on Europe. SUR
The European Union’s reform of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is in its final stages and Andalusian growers and livestock farmers have started to tremble. Their livelihoods could be threatened as a new system to qualify for grants approaches.
In the case of Andalucía, at stake is a total of 1.6 billion euros in direct grants to farmers, plus 300 million for rural development managed by the authorities. Many fear the worst.
“Defending our interests is going to be very complicated”, admits Luis Planas, the regional head of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment. The crisis and expected cuts are one threat to the region, but the arrival of Eastern_European countries in the grants queue is another. In fact as it stands, the new CAP would reduce grants to this region by up to 60 per cent.
Despite their differences in other areas, the central government has joined forces with representatives of all 17 of Spain’s regions to lobby Brussels. With them they are taking a general document to the European Parliament where some 7,000 objections to the proposed new CAP are to be debated.
“A general consensus is important for us, now we are all in the same boat. Then there will be a second stage when we have to decide how to share out funds within Spain”, said the Junta de Andalucía’s director general for Agricultural and Livestock Production, Judit Anda Ugarte.
Now the vote of the MEPs will be binding and lobbying is well under way. Representatives of Asaja, Andalucía’s most important farming association, have also been in Brussels to defend local interests. They are doing this in the form of a report containing one hundred points where they think the new text should be modified
First of all the main objective is to keep the current CAP budget (currently an annual average of 60 billion euros) for the 2014 to 2020 period. “This is the key to everything, it’s fundamental”, says Ricardo_Serra of Asaja. The challenge is for Spain to maintain its grants worth seven billion euros a year.
To this end Spain is firmly opposed to the proposal made by the Romanian Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos, to establish a basic fixed rate per hectare to be applied to all countries. The rate would remain the same irrespective of the type of crop grown and production levels, even when the land is not productive at all.
Andalucía accounts for 25 per cent of Spain’s farming production but the new system would mean significant changes to the distribution of aid.
Another Andalusian farming association, COAG, points out that even in the best of cases if Spain maintains its total sum of subsidies, the new formula would leave Andalusian farmers with 50 per cent of their current grants. Olive producers would be among those to suffer most. Some 50 per cent of their income comes from Brussels, says Serra.
The Junta de Andalucía is in favour of mechanisms that would allow member states to respect historical rights and avoid unproductive land being included in the grant distribution by means of a minimum production demand. The regional authority also calls for a transition period to adapt to a new system.
Similarly Spain is against the new environmental requirements, the so-called ‘greening’ plan which directs 30 per cent of grants at environmental improvements. Andalucía calls for this amount to be reduced to 15 per cent and points out that much of Andalucía’s agriculture has already been improved environmentally.
Neither is the region happy with the fact that the new CAP benefits the diversification of crops on one farm. In Ciolos’s home country, Romania, there are many small farms with different crops, but in Andalucía this proposal would be fatal, for example, for olive growers.
Andalucía is also calling for effective mechanisms to control the fluctuation of market prices. This could come in the form of a European watchdog to prevent speculation on the market and to make sure than any added value is shared among growers and consumers.