The Common Agricultural Policy – Cap 2023-2027: 60 years of pillars and changes

The Common Agricultural Policy – Cap was founded in 1962 with the aim of restoring a war-torn Europe, trying to build from scratch a unified and integrated identity. Therefore, the primary sector seemed to be the ideal starting point to activate new market balances, trying at the same time to counterbalance the increasingly unstoppable advance of industrialization along with the services sector. So, we must ask ourselves: how has the Cap changed sixty years after its birth? Can we still find a common line of action as the one that was drawn up at the beginning, as well as the same desire for integration between European countries?

The answers to these questions are far from trivial, and they find their reasons in the continuous fast transition which has characterized post-war society. While in the 1960s European countries needed to increase productivity by promoting trade to cope with the dramatic situation of food shortages in Europe, then the needs have deeply changed, opening the doors to a twenty-year period characterized by an exacerbated overproduction, food waste, and bargain prices.

The new millennium has seen the predominance of a completely changed framework, with very different national agricultural systems in dimension, production capacity, and flexibility in facing adverse circumstances. However, some of the founding pillars of the first Cap reforms still remain a priority, such as supporting farmers' incomes and taking into account their growing commitment to producing quality products and supporting environmentally friendly practices since 1992. In addition, as far as the recent Cap reforms are concerned, we should mention the support for small agricultural businesses and new incentives for young farmers, which once didn’t exist due to the boost towards large companies along with the merger small ones. Today more than ever, indeed, the new European Cap, which will be fully implemented in the period 2023-2027, is geared toward a more equal redistribution of agricultural support, greening practices, and the achievement of effective results. Moreover, the agricultural measures adopted by the Member States, as well as the national strategic plans, are now drawn up on the basis of local economic peculiarities, thus ensuring the achievement of integration through targeted strategies and not through standardized guidelines typical of the previous century.

At this point, we must ask ourselves: does the current Cap work for the needs of citizens as well as on those of farmers? Ensuring social welfare for farmers and citizens is still part of the Cap backbone, but we should consider that today ensuring a "fair standard of living" has a different impact compared to other objectives, since the social scenario has considerably changed, leaving room for demographic growth, longer life expectancy, globalization, all indicators which suggest how the social welfare’s metamorphosis and improvement are taking place. Therefore, well-being must now be intended as the achievement of food security and rural development, which, since the new millennium, represent valid attempts to strengthen the rural socio-economic fabric, creating jobs opportunities and improving as far as possible living conditions in the marginal areas. However, as already mentioned, it is now clear that all the European plans, or almost all of them, are headed toward climate and environmental issues. This is how the new Cap has already and will continue to take root: 40% of the total budget will be devoted to climate action, numerous premiums will be allocated to agricultural practices in line with the objectives of the Green Deal, including organic farming, crop rotation and the protection of carbon-rich soils. The strong sustainable approach seems to be one of the most marked differences with the Cap reforms prior to the new millennium, and it also represents the new precondition for achieving well-being in its various applications.

In the light of the recent changes, we should ask if the CAP is simply a traditionalist policy or if it is strictly necessary and in accordance with its historical goals? Would be possible to achieve similar outcomes through other means?

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