PositionCommon Agricultural Policy - Conference news

The Irish Presidency will brief agriculture ministers, on 22 April, on the outcome of the first series of three-way meetings on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). To date, six out of thirty scheduled meetings took place in Brussels and Strasbourg, of which two focused on the direct payments regulation - a highly complex and sensitive issue - and another two on the single common market organisation (CMO) regulation. In addition, separate single meetings were held on rural development and horizontal regulations. According to sources, the first round of discussions was quite "productive". The parties presented their positions and indicated issues where major differences still exist.

In the area of direct payments, significant differences appeared regarding the young and small farmer schemes. The Commission insists that the young farmer scheme (25% top-up for first five years of installation for farmers under 40) is obligatory, while the Council and Parliament want the member states to be free to decide if they want to introduce this scheme. According to sources, Parliament and Council signalled their readiness to agree on the maximum (EP proposes 100 hectares) and minimum level (Council suggests 25 hectares) eligible for the young farmer scheme top-up.

On the small famer scheme, the sides differ mainly on the threshold that would allow small farmers to be automatically exempted from the new greening rules and "stringent" cross-compliance requirements (the Commission insists that farmers receiving a fixed amount between 500 and 1,000 should be exempted, while Parliament says that...

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