European farmers and cooperative Presidents united in Brussels on Friday (28 April) and agreed on a joint position on the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), underlining the need for a stronger, sustainable and more modern CAP which is more capable of responding to current and future challenges.
Speaking in Brussels, Copa President Martin Merrild said: "The CAP has been a success story in many ways, enabling farmers to give consumers a good choice of quality food at affordable prices produced in a sustainable manner at the same time as boosting the rural economies.
"This is at a cost of less than 1 per cent of total EU public spending which is good value for money. It also has the support of a majority of citizens as reported by a Special Eurobarometer Survey on the CAP.
"The current structure of the CAP – with two strong pillars - must consequently be maintained, with common rules across the EU. We need to keep current measures to cope with market volatility – direct payments, market safety nets and risk management tools.
"Direct payments to farmers must continue as they are the best tool to help farmers manage risks and to try and stabilise their incomes. Direct payments must go to active farmers who contribute to food security and deliver public goods and services.
"But it is crucial to simplify the CAP as its complexity stifles innovation and efficiency, especially the greening measures, and it is burdensome for farmers. The recent crisis has also clearly shown that the policy tools in the current CAP need to be adapted and modernized to better respond to market conditions.
"To curb the increasing volatility, newer and more performing risk management measures must be made available to farmers and futures markets further developed. These tools should remain voluntary for farmers to apply.
"But it is not only about markets. It is also about ensuring an attractive life in rural areas to bring young people to the sector and to stop the rural exodus. Implementation of the Cork 2.0 declaration – A better Life in Rural Areas - is essential to ensure that the right tools are in place for a more sustainable and smarter countryside."
Cogeca President Thomas Magnusson highlighted the need to improve infrastructures and broadband access to enable farmers to develop their businesses and to benefit from smart farming and digital technology.
Mr Magnusson said: "Smart farming and precision agriculture helps farmers to produce more using less resources. Inputs like fertilizers can be applied in a more accurate manner and it enables them to save on input costs.
"Support at EU and national level and training is also essential to increase its use in the farming community, with an adequate broadband infrastructure to unleash the promise of digital farming. Smart phones and access to broadband can also help farmers to monitor agricultural markets and market their businesses on-line.
"Rural development policies are crucial to support these investments, innovation, enhance biodiversity and encourage the development of agricultural cooperatives and other producers organisations."
With farmers only getting 20 per cent of the price of steak, for example, it is also important that farmers get a bigger share of the price that consumers pay for their food. This can be achieved by encouraging farmers to join agricultural cooperatives and other producer organisations to help them market their produce and get a better price for it.
To be successful, cooperatives must be innovative and follow consumers trends, he concluded. The position paper will feed in to the EU Commissions' public consultation on the future CAP which runs until 2 May.
You can find out further details of the position paper by clicking here.