Agro-political perspectives after 2013 - Austria’s attitude towards Common Agricultural Policy

Agro-political perspectives after 2013 - Austria’s attitude towards Common Agricultural Policy
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The “roadmap” of the EU's agricultural policy foresees that in 2010 both a financial perspective as well as Commission proposals are on the way which will furtheron be followed by mid-2011 legislative initiatives while final decisions on agricultural policy will be taken until the end of 2012. This issue, as well as agricultural policy in Austria and Europe in general, is – in close connection to environmental and regional policy – an ongoing opportunity for discussions1 especially about the future of the EU Common Agricultural Policy, which are permanently gaining special attention by the Austrian public.

General targets for agricultural policy after 2013

Maintaining an efficient, multifunctional and farm-based agriculture Nationwide management and maintenance of settlements in peripheral regions Securing environmental, economic and social sustainability in farm-steads Maintaining a national scope for the design of agricultural policy programs and activities Continuation of successful and accepted policy instruments The very fundament of agricultural policy (and debates) in Austria is the concept of the so-called “Eco-Social Market Economy”. It is standing for a balance of environmental, social and economic sustainability. Eco-social economic policy is considered (not only in Austria) to be sustainable because it is responsible towards future generations. It is supported by the belief that all people around the world and future generations have the right to a good life in an unspoilt environment. In this sense, it is also fully consistent with Article 3 (3) of the Treaty of Lisbon.
For “market economy” alone will not be able to manage all. It can and should improve the added value of the economy and promote innovative entrepreneurship. However, the market needs clear rules and principles of liability – even at the global level – which not only show the latest dramatic developments in the financial and economic world. Eco-Social Market Economy as the economic model is based on the mechanisms of true costs and polluter pays principle, for its economic principles do mean “business operations with full responsibility”.

The “Vienna Principles”

The latest of important preparational steps in factual agricultural politics were the Austro-Bavarian Strategy Meeting (Passau, April 2009), the meeting of eight Agricultural Ministers from EU countries (Vienna, October 2009) and the Conference on mountainous areas of the Alpine states (Tyrol, December 2009), and finally the 57th Austrian “Wintertagung” (Vienna, February 2010). Among other results the Conference of Agriculture Ministers2, provided the so-called “Vienna Principles”, which represent a commitment to the European Common Agricultural Policy after 2013. Their starting point is the fact that European farmers supply high-quality food for 500 million people and maintain the landscape from 27 nations. These core functions should not be questioned. Sustainability and environmental justice are its foundation. The “Vienna principles” include in particular:

  • The commitment to a further development of European agriculture, based on a Common Agricultural Policy and ready to meet new challenges.
  • The endorsement of the European Community's agricultural budget. The agricultural policy must not be re-nationalized. The farmers need a stable framework and targeted planning ahead.
  • A commitment to the two pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy, namely:
    + a first pillar with direct payments as basic coverage, + a second pillar with payments for additional services such as the management of mountain areas, or organic farming and for innovation and investment, such as the production of renewable energy, farm tourism offers, etc. It also requires a further development of the CAP in response to new societal challenges such as climate and environmental protection and (food and energy) supply security.
  • The recognition that new challenges for European agriculture are ahead, ranging from increasing crop losses caused by natural disasters to increasing low cost competition from non-agricultural producers. This increasing risk will continue to require appropriate safety nets and innovative market management.
  • The will to strengthen the competitiveness of farmers on European and global markets. Modern agriculture is aiming at “as much market as possible and as much support as necessary”. It is also an appeal to the farmers in Europe to seize their opportunities in this regard.

A strong common agricultural policy with appropriate funding and the resources necessary is essential if a comprehensive agriculture should be guaranteed in Austria and throughout the European Union even after of the current EU budget period is expiring in 2013. In this way only planning security and a competitive economic frame can be given to agriculture, and on the other hand, high-quality food and habitats available for the consumers.

Austria's response to the Presidential Questions

Concerning the document3 of the EU Presidency “Future of the CAP: market management measures post-2013” Austria has positioned herself on the presidential questions as follows:

Main concerns of the future CAP from the Austrian perspective

No re-nationalization of the CAP. Austria keeps the preservation of common rules on competition and market management tools necessary to guard against speculation, dumping imports and consequences of environmental and social dumping too, in order to prevent massive swings in markets with price rises for consumers or extreme price decreases for farmers. A re-nationalization of the CAP would open the door to discrimination and make the peasants again entirely depend on the national policy.
No reduction of the agricultural budget. A reallocation of funds would evtl. result in the same level of farm payments in every EU member country. Considering the different prevailing income, cost and price levels of the 27 EU countries, there is a risk of great social turmoil in many member countries. For in reality, the share in expenditure of public funds for agriculture across the EU (union, states, regions) is not more than 1 percent altogether. For 2010, the EU's budget for the first time provides more money to regional policy (53.6 billion euros) than for agriculture (52.3 billion euros). By 2013, this ratio will change once more in favor of the Structural Funds, with 58.3 billion euros, and the share of agriculture will decrease to one third. And it is especially to prevent the greed of the national treasuries who will try to further shortening or affecting of the amount of the EU’s agricultural budget in the financial period 2014 to 2020.
Further development of the second pillar. Europe is well advised to maintain the European model of multifunctional agriculture (even if the principle of multi-functionality may not apply for each individual farmer or entrepreneur). This implies in particular an efficient development of the second pillar – rural development – whose best instruments must be preserved.
In determining the amount of direct payments the extent of cross-compliance obligations must be taken into account. And in this context, a sound legitimation of direct payments which is also traceable for consumers and the public is particularly important. To listen better to ideas of the society will show that compensation payments can be suitably positioned and better justified. Direct payments with a clear connex to services will henceforth be indispensable, with the advantage to be tied clearly to different fields of public services (such as water management, landscape management, biodiversity and others). Payments targeted in such a way are also considered to all concepts currently being elaborated for the realignment of the CAP. Adjustments already made in the course of the “health check” of the CAP have shown how to handle the challenges in new areas of specific policies (climate change, renewable energy, biodiversity, efficient water management).
Compensation of structural handicaps in mountain areas must continue. Due to the difficult natural conditions of production, especially for mountain farms it is impossible to compete with increasingly stringent market conditions. For this reason, the Austrian agricultural policy states it being necessary that improvement of conditions in Alpine mountainous and other disadvantaged areas remain an integral part of rural development also in future. Furthermore, for the viability of rural areas it is crucial to strengthen measures to diversify the rural economy and to increase the quality of life.
Especially in deprived regions peasant farms are providing high quality food production in addition to still many benefits for the community as there are, keeping the landscape, safeguarding biodiversity, protecting natural resources, maintaining a minimum level of population, securing (repairing) of infrastructure and the preservation of culture and customs.
Nearly three quarters of the Austrian farms are located in the Alpine mountains or in other LFAs of the country. Therefore, Austria is particularly interested in a suitable financial assistance to mountainous areas also in the future. Austria's mountain farming program, payments for other services provided by farmers within these areas and the agri-environmental program as well as investment aid from the Austrian perspective are essential and will be in the future.

  • 1. The basis of this compilation form speeches and statements of Austrian and international agricultural policy events or results resp., from the years 2008 to 2010, among which particularly comments from Federal Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich, President of the Agricultural Chamber of Austria Gerhard Wlodkowski, Lower Austria’s Landesrat Josef Plank, former Commissioner Franz Fischler and Alois Heißenhuber from the University Munich-Weihenstephan.
  • 2. At the invitation of the Austrian Minister of agriculture, Nikolaus Berlakovich, the Agricultural Ministers of Finland, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary as well as the German State Secretary of Agriculture participated in this meeting.
  • 3. This catalog of questions was preceded by: a general discussion on the future of the CAP under the French presidency, a discussion on the future of the “1st pillar” under the Czech presidency and the future of the “2nd pillar” under the Swedish presidency, and finally on the market management and handling of crises under the Spanish presidency.