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The CAP-Reform: There’s More in it than Merely Greening

Submitted by on 25 Nov 2013 – 15:40

By Elisabeth Jeggle MEP, Member, European Parliament Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development

Since the European Commission presented its proposals for the Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in October 2011 debates have been dominated by the new Greening measures for all European farmers. Without any doubt, these mandatory Greening measures signify an important shift towards a greener CAP within the European Union, but there is more about the CAP-Reform than merely Greening.

When we talk about agricultural policy we need to stress that an important part consists of rural development. For many Member States and regions the Fund for Rural development, which is part of the CAP-Reform, is the most important tool to realise projects in rural areas. We should not neglect this so called 2nd pillar and its wide range of opportunities.

Within the recent CAP-Reform we opened up the Fund for Rural development for projects which go beyond agriculture and which are aimed at fostering vital and innovative rural areas, environment and cultural heritage.

For many years now we had to observe the phenomena of young, well-educated people leaving rural areas and moving to the cities. This is not only dangerous for farms and farmers, but for the socio-economic structures in these areas in general. It is not enough to support agricultural activities itself. We need to seize and foster the whole spectrum of possibilities in our rural areas.

Agriculture and especially downstream markets and activities can substantially contribute to Europe’s economy, create employment and revenues. Therefore the Fund for Rural development offers new opportunities in the years to come:
•    help farmers diversifying their activities (direct marketing, tourism, etc.);
•    promote innovative small and middle sized enterprises in rural areas;
•    develop and foster tourism;
•    create local and short supply chains to carry out production, processing and marketing within one region;
•    supply fast and reliable internet access;
•    support the establishment of social activities (child care, care for elderly or disabled people).

For me personally it was important to open up the Fund for Rural development for a broader range of activities. Within Europe and within my constituency I can observe a huge economic and social potential.

In my home region in southern Germany I realise that people are beginning to appreciate the advantages of local food production and marketing. Local farmers and processors should be able to use this potential, create local supply chains and contribute to rural development and the region’s economy.

At the same time we should support the establishment of small and middle-sized enterprises and make sure they have the general framework to promote and sell their goods all over Europe. One important point is fast internet connections. Although my home region is well developed there are problems with internet and network connections which are a huge hurdle for start-up companies.

Furthermore there is a lack of facilities for child care, and young women in rural areas often have to decide whether they want to have children or a professional career. On the other side our society is getting older and it is difficult for old people in smaller villages to stay in their familiar surroundings. The lack of child care and of care for elderly people needs to be addressed as a society. So there is a social duty and at the same time a good possibility for new employment to support the establishment of such facilities.

In addition, there is a lot to be done in the tourism industry. The Fund for Rural development offers a huge range of additional incentives to foster and extend tourism in rural regions. Farmers can participate in measures to protect the environment and landscape, communities are able to get funding to maintain cultural heritage, such as traditional orchards and steep slopes, organisations that produce and promote regional specialities, such as liquors or juices, can receive financial support and a lot of other small and bigger possibilities are offered.

All the possible programmes and projects are usually prepared on-site in co-operation with stakeholders, authorities, farmers and the people living in the area. Consequently, one of the big advantages of the Fund for Rural development is that the measures are specifically tailored to the needs of the region and to the possibilities of the people who live and work there. In many regions this concept has been a success story and of major benefit for the society.

A recent study of the Berlin-Institute says that it is getting too expensive to support rural areas and to maintain infrastructure and social services for only few people. The study concludes that people in less populated areas should move to densely populated regions and small villages should be abandoned.

Not only do I think that people should have a real choice whether they want to live in cities or in rural areas and consequently we have to make sure to provide equal circumstances. But further I am convinced that a huge economic potential lies in our rural areas and nowadays, we cannot afford to leave it unused. I believe that it is high time to recognize and seize all these opportunities.