The transition towards greener food systems in the EU requires a repurposing of current agricultural subsidies and the identification of new financial resources. This Issue Brief questions how such changes could happen by looking at the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiation process, during which the overall CAP budget is negotiated, and maximum ceilings for each country and types of expenses (pilar 1 and pilar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy) are defined for a 7-year period.

Key Messages

  • While there are limited possibilities to increase the receipts that make up the EU budget, new areas of interventions for the EU call for new expenses (e.g. recovery plan, common defence, emerging priorities), putting traditional programmes of the EU–and in particular the CAP– under pressure.
  • Against this backdrop, four arguments are put forth to justify or call into question the size of the budget devoted to the CAP:
    • It needs to be maintained to ensure EU’s and global food security–while little to no references are made to the need to address environmental challenges (budget +, envi –);
    • It needs to be maintained to finance a much needed agroecological transition–without which the productive capacity of EU agroecosystems could eventually be reduced (budget +, envi +);
    • It needs to be cut to create a new fund dedicated to the preservation of ecosystem services and biodiversity, as the CAP will never be up to that job (budget –, envi +);
    • It needs to be cut as the agricultural sector makes an inefficient use of the CAP money; this will enable the EU to finance new priorities (budget –, envi –).
  • Member states (MS) are the most influential actors in the MFF negotiation; changing the budget allocation to support a more sustainable and resilient food system would thus require a large enough alignment of MS pushing for this idea.
  • This alignment will have to go beyond a rhetorical tactic from their part in view of conserving the share of the EU budget devoted to the agricultural sector, as has been the case in 2013. This would require new mechanisms linking up the MFF negotiation to the design of agrifood policies to avoid that once agrifood actors have secured “their” share of the budget through the MFF negotiation, they are left with limited to no obligation to abide to the promises made.
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