CAP reform 2014-2020: Background

Since 2009, European agricultural policy discussions have been dominated by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform debate relating to the next seven year policy planning period 2014-2020. The process is now nearing its conclusion, with key agreements reached in June 2013, almost two years after the Commission first published legislative proposals in October 2011.

The context to the Commission’s 2011 proposals, including a review of the provision of public goods by agriculture prepared by the London-based Institute for European Environmental Policy, can be found at

The Commission’s extensive consultation process leading up to these proposals highlighted clear differences in perception of the role of the Common Agricultural Policy, with much support from citizens for the idea that agricultural policy can be justified provided that there is a significant emphasis on the delivery of environmental and other public goods, while some industry respondents have argued against any measures that might limit the industry’s potential to be as profitable and productive as possible, particularly in the context of concerns about food security. Environmental groups have been particularly concerned about the ‘greenwashing’ potential of the reforms. This builds on a position paper developed by a broad range of European environmental groups, including the organic movement, which called for a radical approach to the greening of the CAP.

This divergence of views has also been reflected in the debates at national level, and in the European Parliament, which now has a much greater role in the decision-making process. Some MEPs have strongly supported the public good/greening perspectives, while others have taken a strong pro-industry line. The culmination of the European Parliament’s debates can be found in the Dess report and the conclusions of the EP’s agriculture and rural development committee.

Following the publication of the Commission’s legislative proposals on, there has been intensive debate and lobbying, with many groups, including governments, other DGs in the Commission, MEPs, environmental NGOs and farming organisations being critical of aspects of the proposals, either for being insufficiently radical, especially with respect to the environment, or for being too radical, bureaucratic and constraining of farmers’ flexibility to farm as they would like.

The process of reaching agreement was finally achieved through a process of ‘trilogues’ – discussions between the European Commission, Council of Ministers and Parliament, chaired in early 2013 by the Irish Government presidency of the EU, with substantive agreements achieved on 26th June 2013.

Some outstanding issues remain to be agreed, and the EU Parliament still needs to vote to accept the package, before the final legislation can be put in place – this is expected to happen by the end of 2013.

In the meantime, Member States are in the process of preparing their rural development and CAP implementation plans, with various consultations taking place in England (CAP & RDP, closing date 28-Nov-13), Wales (CAP, closing date 30-Nov-13, RDP due in 2014), Scotland (CAP due in Dec-13) and Northern Ireland (RDP, closing date 21-Oct-13; CAP closing date 17-01-14).

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CAP reform 2014 – 2020: Next steps

There will clearly be significant further arguments from all sides as the legislation is finalised, a process which is expected to continue well into 2012. If it is not delayed significantly, it is intended that the national implementation regulations will be put in place in 2013 so that the new policy can take effect from January 2014.

We will be using this page to assess the implications for organic farming and to provide updates on progress as they become available.

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CAP Reform 2014-2020: What ORC is doing

In 2010, ORC produced a review for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation of the European and other OECD experiences with agri-environment schemes in the context of developing schemes that pay producers for ecosystem services and public goods. This has been published as:

Lampkin, N. (2011) Relevance of OECD agri-environmental measures for PES. In: Ottaviani, D. & Scialabba, N el-H (eds.) Payments for Ecosystem Services and Food Security (External PDF 11.2MB). Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome. pp.45-67.

Drawing on this work, ORC has prepared a summary (PDF 472KB) of the history of CAP and some of the key issues in the reform process from the perspective of the organic sector, which was presented to an IFOAM event on “Government Policies for the Promotion of Organic Agriculture with a Focus on the Asian Pacific Region” as part of the IFOAM World Congress in South Korea in September 2011.

During 2011, the Organic Research Centre and other partners in Europe were engaged with research on the current use and efficiency of organic farming support policies in the EU for the European Commission’s DG Agriculture, the results of which will feed into the implementation phase of the CAP Reform proposals. The final report is available at

Since the publication of the legislative proposals on 12th October, we have been active working with other UK and European organic and environmental groups on the assessment of the proposals and the identification of issues that still need to be addressed. This has included presentations to the OCW conference in October 2011 and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agro-ecology in the House of Lords in November 2011. We have also raised key issues in meetings with government officials, including a UK organic policy forum hosted at Elm Farm in October with representatives of all four UK administrations and stakeholders.

ORC has also submitted evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee inquiry into the impacts of the proposed Greening element of the direct payments, which will be taking oral evidence in November. Our evidence, and other written evidence received, has been published. The results of the Inquiry, will be published in due course.

CAP reform will again be a focus of the Organic Producer Conference in January 2014 and regular updates have been, and will continue to be, provided in the ORC Bulletin.

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CAP reform: History and previous research

Nic Lampkin and Susanne Padel have been involved in a series of EU-funded studies of the CAP and European organic farming policies including Organic Farming and CAP Reform (OFCAP, 1996-1999) and Development of European Organic Farming Policies (EUCEEOFP, 2003-2006). These studies provide a comprehensive and detailed history of the development of European organic farming policies in the context of the CAP since the mid 1980s. Many of the results of these projects are published in the series Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy. PDF Electronic versions of these reports can also be found at, while printed versions can be ordered from ORC.

21 Oct 2005
Lawrence Woodward writes on the Common Agricultural Policy and questions what CAP is? Download this article here


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