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Impact of CAP on Rural Development

The EESC report “Evaluation on the CAP's impact on territorial development of rural areas” is based on consultations with civil society organisations representing employers, workers and associations of various interests, as well as public authorities in five selected EU countries (France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Spain) in order to understand how they experienced and observed the impact of the CAP on balanced territorial development.

Among the main findings of the report are:

  • The revised CAP for 2021-2027 needs to strengthen the second pillar, to ensure sufficient support is given to rural areas to meet the wide range of economic, environmental and societal challenges.
  • An improvement of the quality of life in rural areas is essential. In order to maintain competitiveness of rural economies it is important to fight youth unemployment in rural areas, guarantee proper remunerations for workers, and provide sufficient infrastructures (transportation, digital services, etc.). The CAP alone is not enough to meet all the challenges that rural areas face.
  • While CAP subsidies are particularly conditional on respect for basic environmental standards, public health and animal welfare, compliance with human and labour rights is not considered at all. This is why the CAP has failed to improve agricultural workers' conditions. In the visited countries, respondents and workers organizations strongly highlighted the importance of a social conditionality clause which should be a key tool to ensure decent working conditions for all.
  • Public procurement offers a critically important tool, which is underutilised, for incentivising social, labour and environmentally sustainable production practices.
  • Besides ensuring food security and food safety, the CAP should also meet the expectations in terms of access to quality food for all, the agricultural social contract (remuneration as well as quality of life of farmers and farm workers) and environmental emergencies.
  • The CAP should focus more on job creation by contributing to a more diversified rural economy in rural areas, and support the settlement of people in rural areas, generational renewal of farmers, which continues to be an important issue, or people with new projects like food processing activities or tourism.
  • The CAP should support initiatives aimed at organising the upstream part of the supply chain or producers' organisations which allow farmers to have more bargaining power.
  • The CAP should provide solutions to the issue of land abandonment in the countryside, which remains an issue in some regions.
  • Social farming was stressed, mostly by Italian and Irish representatives, as an effective measure of the 2014-2020 CAP, playing an important role in particular for the well-being and care of people, as well as agri-tourism and educational farms attracting the urban population, and that should be further supported.
  • The role of women in farms needed to be strengthened (ensuring equal pay and, where appropriate, through access to co-ownership of farms, increasing the occupancy rate), stressing that, as for any other European policy, equal opportunities must be an essential part of the CAP.
  • A holistic approach to rural development is needed; therefore, the CAP must be linked with other existing policies: among others, decent work conditions, mobility, training courses, social inclusion, funds and plans (European Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy, Next Generation Europe).
  • Employment policies must play a key role in the future CAP as the agricultural world is based on paid employment.
  • The competencies of the coordination of the CAP should be divided at territorial level in order to ensure a link between employment and territories. The opportunities offered by the CAP need to be made more accessible at local level (less bureaucracy, simpler conditions).
  • The CAP measures and policies must be coherent and complementary with European strategies such as the Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy and, particularly, with the upcoming New Industrial Strategy, which defines agri-food as one of the key EU strategic ecosystems.
  • Strengthening the role of civil society organisations would allow them to develop enough resources to be more present at different stages (from planning to implementation and evaluation).
  • The recognition of the individual needs and characteristics of the different regions in each country can only be widely facilitated by the local organisations that are part of each community.
  • There is a need to develop a holistic EU approach to rural areas, of special importance in the context of post-COVID recovery.
  • There is also a need to ensure consistency and complementarity of the CAP with overarching policy frameworks such as the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The future CAP and other policies affecting rural areas need to focus on raising the attractiveness of rural areas. This requires ensuring job opportunities, decent working conditions and high quality services in areas such as education, housing, culture, employment and social support, and communication measures to reach out.
  • The Recovery and Resilience Facility funds (part of the Next Generation EU) need to be well-designed to have an important impact in rural areas. It is of crucial importance that the national recovery and resilience plans include the rural perspective.
  • A Rural Development Observatory should be established to enable the discernment of the real intrinsic trends underway in purely rural economies as distinct from the urban centres to which they are connected. This is essential to interrogate their internal dynamics so as to obtain the most comprehensive understanding upon which to frame policy formulation.

As Ireland is currently involved in the next round of CAP 2021-2027 negotiations, we recommend the following policies are adopted by Government to incorporate some of the findings of the EESC report:

  • In order to fulfil the objectives of Pillar II of CAP on rural development and environmental protection then a greater proportion of the budget must be given to these measures.
  • There must also be a more coherent policy focus and looking at areas of market failure in terms of services provision that the state must address, and what the LEADER programme can support.
  • The next round of CAP funding must be aligned with ‘Our Rural Future’ and the ambitions stated in the Programme for Government to move to a more sustainable economic model, balanced regional development and carbon neutrality.
  • Ireland should adopt a sustainable land management approach to reward sustainable forms of agriculture.