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Cutting red tape in agriculture

Publiceret 20. maj 2016

The Commission working program for 2016 “No time for business as usual” has set a clear goal for cutting red tape in the common agricultural policy. The Danish government fully supports the Commission in its work on simplification, but I see a potential for being much more ambitious. Simplification is up for discussion at the Council meeting (Agriculture and Fisheries) 17 May 2016.

The 2013-reform of the Common Agricultural Policy has made the legislation very complex. The Commission has taken steps to correct some of the worst new red tape introduced with the 2013-reform – like the requirement to put up a poster on the farm when receiving rural development area support. This rule has been modified and made optional.

Clearly there is a need to cut more red tape in order to lift the burden for European farmers and also for the European tax payers. Administrative cost under shared management is not for free; neither for farmers nor taxpayers.

The overarching principle when it comes to simplification is to focus on

●Subsidiarity for Member States
●Reducing administrative costs and control
●The real risk for the European budget

Subsidiarity for Member States in relation to implementation should be ensured to a much higher degree than today. Do we really need common European definitions of trees in line, hedges and ditches? Clearly the greening of the direct payment contains good environmental elements, but Member States do not use all possibilities due to extremely complex rules and the fear for financial corrections. This is a disadvantage for the European farmers and for the environment.

There are many areas where administrative costs and control could be reduced. A Danish proposal is to reduce the requirements when it comes to on the spot control in relation to greening. It should be possible to limit it to one control visit on the farm in relation to greening. This would benefit both farmers and national administrations.   

One of the reasons for the high level of administrative costs and control is to ensure sound financial management. But we have to focus on the real risk for the European budget. The current system is developed in the 1980’es where we had an agricultural policy based on support for agricultural products, and the cost of the policy correlated with production volumes. Today we have a policy based on support for areas and the support is decoupled from the production. Therefore we should move to a control system that reflects the need for better integration of environment into agriculture, and that nature may change agricultural fields without a need for reflecting this down to a precision of 100 square meters on the millions of farmed areas in Europe.

Some of these elements can be dealt with in the implementing rules, but in other cases there is a need to look at the basic act as well. This should and could be done without altering the political compromise in the 2013-reform.

Simplification is not only an issue on the European level – clearly we should also focus on the national implementation of EU-legislation. The Danish government has taken an initiative to ensure full openness on the Danish implementation. Unnecessary gold plating of EU-legislation should be avoided and in the cases were we go beyond the EU-legislation it is highlighted in the proposals for new Danish legislation. A very straight forward example is that on the homepage of my ministry all Danes can report a rule concerning environment or food that they find obsolete or disproportionate.

I fully subscribe to the fact that simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy is very complex and technical, but we owe it to European farmers and tax payers to continue the work on cutting red tape.