Questions and answers: Commission publishes recommendations for Common Agricultural Policy national strategic plans

Questions and answers: Commission publishes recommendations for Common Agricultural Policy national strategic plans

What are these recommendations?

The recommendations published today are part of the structured dialogue between the Commission and Member States in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform and the European Green Deal.

They aim to assist Member States in the drafting of their CAP strategic plans by identifying the key areas on which each Member State should focus to ensure the achievement of the CAP objectives as well as contribute to the Green Deal targets. They also provide an analysis of each agricultural sector and rural areas, linking them to the future CAP objectives, as well as specific reference values for each Green Deal target.

This structured dialogue was set up following the Commission’s presentation of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies and an analysis of the link between the CAP and the Green Deal, on 20 May 2020. The idea is to ensure that Member States take full advantage of the future CAP and its instruments to support their farmers in the transition towards increased sustainability of our food systems, while taking into account their local conditions and needs. The Commission will support Member States throughout the whole process of preparation of their CAP strategic plan.

Are the recommendations legally binding for Member States?

The recommendations are not legally binding in themselves. However, the Commission will approve the CAP strategic plans ahead of the implementation of the new CAP, once officially submitted by the Member States. During the approval process, which will be based on the criteria laid down in the future CAP strategic plan regulation, the Commission will use the recommendations as an important reference document to assess the plans.

How are you encouraging Member States to meet the European Green Deal objectives?

In the recommendations, the Commission provides an analysis of each Member State’s agricultural sector and rural areas. This analysis includes an assessment of the national situation in relation to the European Green Deal targets, including, by 2030, a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of pesticides, a reduction by at least 20% of the use of fertilizers, a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, as well as reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming, and ensuring 100% fast broadband access in rural areas. 

This assessment has led to the identification of the different levels of efforts needed per target and per Member State. Based on this, the Commission put forward concrete recommendations to Member States for the drafting of their CAP strategic plans, ensuring a link with the Green Deal ambition.

In their CAP Strategic Plans, Member States will draft an intervention strategy, which should explain how they will use CAP instruments to achieve the CAP objectives, based on their local conditions and needs. This will also address the Green Deal targets.

The recommendations facilitate the identification of the Member States’ needs, especially with regard to the Green Deal targets. In particular, the Commission will ask Member States to set explicit national values for the six Green Deal targets, which should translate the Green Deal’s EU level ambition into specific aspirations at national level. The reference values provided by the recommendations will be particularly useful in this process.

How does it fit with the current negotiations?

The negotiations with the European Parliament and Council on the CAP reform officially started on 10 November 2020. The negotiations cover the CAP reform’s three pieces of legislation: the Strategic Plan Regulation, the Horizontal Regulation and the Common Market Organisation Regulation.

The structured dialogue is not included in the Strategic Plan Regulation as it was proposed after the Commission presented its proposals (June 2018). Nonetheless, the approval process and the implementation of the CAP strategic plans are defined in the text.

What is the timeline regarding the CAP strategic plans?

The specific timeline regarding the CAP strategic plans, including the formal submission by Member States and the Commission’s approval, will depend on the outcome of the negotiations with the co-legislators.

The Commission’s ambition is that a political agreement is concluded by spring 2021. Member States would then have until 1 January 2022 to submit their plans. The Commission would have until 1 January 2023 to approve the plans, when the implementation of the new CAP would take place.

Between the moment Member States submit their plans and the Commission approves them, the structured dialogue will continue. For instance, the Commission will address observations to Member States as part of the approval process.

What does the Commission recommend to Member States in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

The Commission recognises that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a key challenge for the EU’s agricultural sector as a whole, especially in the context of the Green Deal’s ambition of being carbon neutral by 2050 and the 2030 target of reducing by 55% GHG emissions.

The Commission is preparing a package of proposals for June 2021 on improving the contribution of both the agricultural and land use sectors to that new, ambitious target.

Therefore, the Commission recommends to all Member States to reduce their GHG emissions in agriculture especially from livestock or soil management, taking into account the differences between Member States in that regard. To do this, the Commission encourages the use of smarter, more precise and sustainable farming, drawing from knowledge-sharing and technology. For instance, this can help with better nutrient management, more precise use of plant protection products and improvements to livestock and manure management. In addition, combining livestock, crops and forests can also contribute to a reduction of GHG emissions. Finally, the Commission highlights the untapped potential of carbon sequestration as well as the need to protect carbon-rich soils such as peatlands and wetlands.

The Commission also supports and recommends the development of carbon farming as a new business model for farmers. Such carbon farming schemes can also be supported through the new eco-schemes of the CAP.

How can other EU funds help achieve CAP objectives?

Various EU policies currently support and play important roles in rural areas in addition to the CAP, including Regional, Cohesion and Social policies and a number of other EU policies such as those dealing with energy, transport, connectivity, environment or climate.

In the recommendations to Member States, the Commission highlights how other EU funds can contribute to the further development of rural areas. There is a need for greater synergies with other funds in this regard.

Furthermore, the Next Generation EU fund puts a special focus on the digital transition, part of the EU’s recovery plan. This will be important in achieving the objective of 100% access to fast broadband in rural areas by 2025.

Finally, Horizon Europe and the proposed EU mission on Soil health and food will also be key in the achievement of CAP objectives. They will fund research and innovation in food and agriculture, leading to the development of crucial tools and practices for sustainable farming and better natural resources management.

Source: Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) national strategic plans (

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