BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The European Commission recently outlined reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that it said will make the European agriculture sector more dynamic, competitive and effective in responding to the Europe 2020 vision of sustainable, smart and inclusive growth.

The paper, “The Common Agriculture Policy Towards 2020 — Meeting the Food, Natural Resources and Territorial Challenges of the Future,” outlines three options for further reform. After discussion of the ideas, the commission will make formal legislative proposals in mid-2011.

E.U. Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Ciolo? underlined the importance of making the CAP “greener, fairer, more efficient and more effective.”

“The CAP is not just for farmers, it is for all E.U. citizens — as consumers and taxpayers. It is therefore important that we design our policy in a way which is more understandable to the general public and which makes clear the public benefits that farmers provide to society as a whole,” he said. “European agriculture needs to be not only economically competitive, but also environmentally competitive.”

Earlier in the year, the commission held a public debate and a major conference on the future of the CAP. The vast majority of contributions identified three principal objectives from the CAP:

— viable food production: safe and sufficient food supplies, in the context of growing global demand, economic crisis and much greater market volatility to contribute to food security;

— sustainable management of natural resources and climate action; and

— maintaining the territorial balance and diversity of rural areas.

The proposal outlines the importance of a redistribution, redesign and better targeting of the support, based on objective and equitable criteria, easy to understand by the taxpayer.

Three options for the future direction of the CAP are outlined in the reform proposal:

1) Adjusting most pressing shortcomings in the CAP through gradual changes.

2) Making the CAP greener, fairer, more efficient, and more effective.

3) Moving away from income support and market measures and focusing on environmental and climate change objectives.

In all three options, the commission foresees the maintenance of the current system of two pillars — a first pillar (covering direct payments and market measures, where rules are clearly defined at E.U. level) and a second pillar (comprising multi-annual rural development measures, where the framework of options is set at E.U. level, but the final choice of schemes is left to member states or regions under joint management).

Another common element to all three options is the idea that the future system of direct payments cannot be based on historical reference periods, but should be linked to objective criteria.

“The current system provides different rules for the E.U.-15 and the E.U.-12, which cannot be continued after 2013,” Ciolo? said.