Photo-illustration: Pixabay (hpgruesen)

Today member states’ representatives in the Special Committee on Agriculture endorsed a targeted review of certain basic acts of the common agricultural policy (CAP) proposed by the European Commission as a response to the concerns voiced by farmers.

This review addresses issues encountered, for instance, with the implementation of the CAP strategic plans and aims to deliver simplification, reduce the administrative burden, and provide greater flexibility for complying with certain environmental conditionalities.

Ensuring a targeted response

The review addresses certain elements of the CAP strategic plans regulation and the regulation on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy (the so-called ‘horizontal regulation’).

The text strikes a careful balance between the need to maintain the high level of environment and climate ambition in the current CAP and ensuring that farmers’ concerns are addressed.

Adapting conditionalities

The Special Committee on Agriculture today endorsed the changes to the Good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAEC) standards proposed by the European Commission.

GAECs are a set of nine standards beneficial to the environment and the climate that apply to farmers who receive support under the CAP. These standards are also referred to as conditionalities, given the link between respecting these requirements and the support provided to farmers.

One of the main changes is that a general provision is introduced allowing member states to grant temporary and targeted derogations from certain conditionality requirements in the event of unforeseen climate conditions that prevent farmers from complying with them. Once per year, member states will have to inform the Commission about such derogations.


On top of that, specific exemptions from certain GAEC standards are introduced, such as:

  • for GAEC 6 on soil cover during sensitive periods: member states will have more flexibility to decide which soils to protect and in which season, based on national and regional specificities
  • for GAEC 7 on crop rotation: crop rotation will remain the main practice, but member states will be able to use crop diversification as an alternative; this is less demanding for farmers, especially in areas subject to drought or high rainfall
  • for GAEC 8: farmers will only be obliged to maintain existing landscape features and will from now on be encouraged, on a voluntary basis, to keep land fallow or to create new landscape features through eco-schemes.

The endorsed revision also exempts small farms of under 10 hectares from controls and penalties related to compliance with conditionality requirements under the CAP.

Since this concerns 65 percent of CAP beneficiaries but only accounts for around 10 percent of agricultural land, it will significantly reduce the administrative burden related to controls for farmers and national administrations alike, while maintaining the environmental goals.

Photo-illustration: Unsplash (Jordan Opel)

More flexibility for member states and farmers

In line with member states’ previous demands, the review will ensure that EU countries can now amend their CAP strategic plans twice each year on a permanent basis, as opposed to once, as it currently stands.

This will provide member states with greater flexibility to address changing conditions. On top of this, it will still be possible to have three additional requests for changes over the whole programming period.

Next steps

The chair of the Special Committee on Agriculture will now send the offer letter to the European Parliament.

The European Parliament’s Committee for agriculture decided to use the urgent procedure for this proposal. The Parliament’s position at first reading is expected to be adopted at their plenary on 22-25 April 2024.

The regulation is then to be formally adopted by the Council, signed by the representatives of the Council and the European Parliament and published in the Official Journal. If all goes as planned, the regulation will enter into force by the end of this spring.

Given the extremely short time between the adoption of the proposal by the Commission (15 March 2024) and its envisaged entry into force, this shows the commitment of the three institutions to rapidly address the current situation of European farmers.

Source: European Council