BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — A first set of concrete actions towards CAP simplification were announced May 11 by E.U. Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan, on issues related to the guidelines for direct payments this year.

In a debate on CAP Simplification at the Agriculture Council meeting, the commissioner outlined certain changes which can be implemented this year and explained the further steps.

“Some of the proposals which concern direct payments do not require changing the legislative rules, but can be implemented at the level of our current guidelines, and applicable already this year,” Hogan said. “I intend to follow-up on these proposals by making six concrete changes which should facilitate the lives of farmers and national administrations."

They relate to the Ecological Focus Area (EFA), adjacent EFAs, the Land Parcel Identification system (LPIS) and compensation of EFAs in case of wrong declaration. More specifically, the vommission intends:
• to accept that member states, that so wish, only need to map declared EFAs;
• to allow flexibility as regards to the identification of EFA's in the EFA-layer (concerns hedges or wooded strips and trees in line);
• to allow hedges or wooded strips with gaps up to 4 meters;
• in the case of implementation of adjacent EFA, to accept a limited buffer between the boundary and the EFA for the Member States which wish so;
• to accept a simplified approach in regards to the identification of some specific types of permanent grassland in the LPIS and;
• to allow that a missing EFA may be compensated by another EFA, even if this EFA has not been declared.

In addition to these six changes, farmers concerns about the permanent grassland obligation and the classification of land laying fallow were addressed. The commissioner intends to consider that pure leguminous crops (e.g. alfalfa) should not be considered by definition as permanent grassland after five years. Furthermore, the period of declaration of land lying fallow as EFA and the period under agri-environmental commitments will not be taken into account for the calculation of the five-year period for permanent grassland.

“Of course, our efforts to simplify the new direct payments regime cannot stop at the level of the guidelines,” Hogan said. “That's why I will be coming forward with a further package of amendments to modify the relevant delegated and implementing acts soon after the summer break."

This second package is intended to cover elements other than the greening (e.g. young farmers scheme, voluntary coupled support and certain aspects of the IACS) and should become applicable, if possible, from next year (claim year 2016) or at the latest the year after.

There will be a further review of the greening rules next year after the first year of application, as pledged by the commission in April 2014. The aim is to come forward with a further package of measures next year, applicable the following year (claim year 2017).