The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is aimed at helping European farmers meet the needs of 500 million Europeans. Its main objectives are to provide a stable and safe food supply at affordable prices for consumers, while ensuring a decent standard of living for farmers.
Since it was established in 1962, the CAP has undergone many changes, moving from an original emphasis on quantity, towards a policy with particular emphasis on market orientation, quality, food safety and traceability, respecting animal welfare and broader environmental concerns, and sustainability.
By producing food, European agriculture supplies the raw materials for the EU’s dynamic agri-food industry – the largest employment sector in the EU – and remains a vital motor for the wider rural economy.
Concerns about climate change and issues such as biodiversity loss, water scarcity and soil fertility mean that agriculture also plays an increasingly important role in the sustainable management of natural resources, with the CAP providing support to farmers on these issues which are not remunerated through the market.
In its most recent revision, the 2013 CAP reform introduced specific measures for “Green Direct Payments” linked to the provision of environmental public goods, linking viable food production, sustainable management of farmland and environmentally-friendly practices.
A common policy for all 28 EU countries, the new CAP provides flexibility for Member States to adapt some of the tools to respond to their country-specific situations. This series of factsheets illustrates how EU countries have decided to implement the 2013 reform for the period until 2020, notably through their direct payments model and their Rural Development Programmes.