The common agricultural policy (CAP) is the European Union’s (EU) answer to the questions of how to ensure food security, the sustainable use of natural resources and the balanced development of Europe’s rural areas.
Its aim is to help provide a decent standard of living for European farmers and agricultural workers and a stable, varied and safe food supply for citizens. It also contributes to the EU’s priorities such as creating jobs and economic growth, tackling climate change and encouraging sustainable development.
The CAP has three inter-connected routes to help it reach these goals: income support for farmers (so-called “direct payments”); market measures, for example to combat a sudden drop in prices, and rural development.
This publication focuses principally on direct payments, a key element of the policy that provides income support for farmers and promotes competitiveness, sustainability and environmentally-friendly farming practices. The lion’s share (72%) of the current EU farm budget is dedicated to direct payments for European farmers.
While the rules governing direct payments are set at EU level, their implementation is managed directly by each member state under the principle known as ‘shared management’. This means that national authorities are responsible for the administration and control of direct payments to farmers in their country. Each country also has a certain level of flexibility in the way they grant these payments to take account of national farming conditions, which vary greatly throughout the European Union.
Direct payments benefit nearly 7 million farms throughout the European Union and often represent an important share of their agricultural income (on average, nearly half of farmers’ income in the last ten years came from this direct support).
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