The European Commission approved the first package of CAP strategic plans for seven countries, including one from the Central and Eastern European region: Poland.
This is an important step for the implementation of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on 1 January 2023. The new CAP is designed to shape the transition to a sustainable, resilient and modern European agricultural sector. Under the reformed policy, funding will be more fairly distributed to small and medium-sized family farms, as well as to young farmers. Moreover, farmers will be supported to take up new innovations, from precision farming to agroecological production methods. By supporting concrete actions in these and other areas, the new CAP can be the cornerstone for food security and farming communities in the European Union.
The new CAP incorporates a more efficient and effective way of working. In their strategic national plans, EU countries included objectives which touch upon shared environmental, social and economic challenges, contributing to the EU’s climate goals.
“We are now one step closer to implementing a new CAP for the next five years,” commented Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski. “This step comes at a crucial moment when the importance of providing robust support for our farming sector has become abundantly clear. Farmers are facing a challenging environment, marked by the sharp increase in production costs due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, as well as the recent summer drought. Farming is a long-term business and European farmers need to have a clear legal and financial framework for the future. The new CAP will help us to support stable farming livelihoods and long-term food security by fostering a smart, competitive, resilient and diversified agricultural sector.”
Overall, the CAP will benefit from 270 billion euros in funding for the 2023-2027 period. The seven Plans approved represent a budget of over 120 billion euros, including over 34 billion euros dedicated exclusively to environmental and climate objectives and eco-schemes.
The Polish example
In Poland, the agri-food sector is of great national economic, social and environmental importance. The total share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in gross value added is twice as high as the EU average. Rural areas and agricultural areas occupy 85 per cent and 52 per cent of the country’s area, respectively and they are inhabited by about 15 million people or 38 per cent of the total population.
Poland’s Strategic Plan for 2023-2027 will support the sustainable development of farms, the processing sector and the improvement of living and working conditions in rural areas. It will support the protection of water, soil, air and biodiversity and promote the production and use of sustainable energy. It will also focus on small farmers and animal welfare.
When it comes to greening the agriculture sector, different challenges must be addressed such as the lack of water resources related to increasing rainfall deficit, the presence of rather light soils, low levels of wetland protection, low organic farming areas, decreasing biodiversity and the unsatisfactory status of natural habitats.
In the new CAP Strategic Plan, wetlands and peatlands – large carbon sinks – will be better protected. In buffer zones along water courses, the use of all types of fertilisers and plant protection products will be restricted. Farmers must manage agricultural soils in order to protect them from erosion. In order to maintain and restore biodiversity, 4 per cent of arable land on the farm will be dedicated to non-productive areas.
Poland is aiming to more than double its agricultural area under organic farming by 2030. Eco-schemes will incentivise farmers to implement environmental and climate-friendly practices that go beyond the legal requirements and to shift towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. Eco-schemes will be voluntary for farmers in Poland with an allocation of 25 per cent of the direct payments envelope. There will be a specific focus on soil protection and sustainable production methods.
Furthermore, through a dedicated eco-scheme, farmers will receive support for sowing a mixture of at least two species of honey plants in dedicated areas. These honey plant areas must not be used for agricultural production until 31 August and must not be treated with plant protection products. Between 2023 and 2027, Poland wants to support honey plants in an area of about 30,000 hectares per year. Finally, another scheme included in the plan will give support to farmers to contribute to better soil health – such as the application of winter catch crops or the implementation of a fertilisation plan – that will cover up to 2.6 million hectares.