BRUSSELS: European Union ministers agreed on Wednesday (Oct 21) to overhaul its big budget farm policy with tighter rules to protect the environment and fight climate change.
The new policy adopted by the 27 EU countries will now be the subject of negotiations with the European Parliament, which this week will vote on its own proposals.
"After a long struggle, we have reached a crucial agreement," German Agriculture Minister Julia Klockner said after two days of talks in Luxembourg.
Klockner said there was a "good balance" in achieving a Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) that is "greener, fairer and simpler".
The member states and members of the European Parliament must decide together between now and next year on rules that will apply starting in January 2023.
The European commissioner for agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said the deal was "a good starting point" for these negotiations, suggesting a "good compromise" could be reached.
With a budget set for around €387 billion over seven years, the CAP accounts for the biggest share of EU spending.
Under the agreement, all farmers will be forced to respect stricter environmental regulations if they want to benefit from financial aid.
Small farms will be subjected to simple checks "which would reduce the administrative burden, while guaranteeing at the same time their contribution to environmental and climate objectives", it says.
So-called "ecoregimes", a system of incentives for farmers to apply more stringent environmental standards, would also become compulsory.
Each member state will have to devote at least 20 per cent of EU direct payments to them, with the goal being for farms to receive additional funds if they go over and above the basic norms on climate and the environment.
The issue was a cause of friction as many eastern European countries fear losing European funds if an insufficient number of farmers participate in environmental programmes.
"Just a few hours ago we had very different opinions," Wojciechowski said, adding an agreement is good for farmers who need clarity for planning ahead.