Seminar @ KU Leuven 8-9 February 2018

Summary conclusions by Felix Mittermayer, EP ComAGRI 

Europe has the « wind in its sails «  as the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said at the occasion of his State of the Union address 2017. This offers a unique opportunity to address existing reform back-logs also in policies such as the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) whose objectives are now in place for two generations irrespective of the dramatic technological and societal changes occurring in agriculture food and rural areas. Accentuated is this situation by external drivers such as COP21 Paris agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) while a decrease in available EU budget (20% in general) and new tasks necessitate a renewed discussion of EU budgetary priorities.

What better occasion for a transition to a true Agriculture and Food policy with the objective to respond to new challenges and deliver existing objectives more efficiently ? Most immediate short comings are area-based payments (80% of budget) that drive-up land prices, hinder innovation and reward land-ownership instead of compensating for goods or service provision.

However, change needs not only objectives but also an approach from design to implementation : this duality of new method and objectives is the driver behind the seminar organised by the Department of Bioeconomics at KU Leuven (Dr Tessa Avermaete) and its head, Prof Erik Mathijs. In addition to Bioeconomics as framework, Henk Westhoek (PBL NL) set-out the requirements of a Food system perspective; this was further developed into an even more integrative and inclusive approach by Dr Ursula Hudson (Slow Food) in the term of farmers and citizens as co-producer while Prof Heinemann (ZEW Mannheim) introduced from a budgetary point of view the notions of European Added Value as key criteria for financial allocations. The frame to bring these different approaches and perspectives all together into an operational method to deliver change is Transition management (PJ Beers, DRIFT). Building on comprehensive arena setting and an analysis of the landscape, regime and niches of the policy area at stake, a common vision (Food policy in 2050) is developed, and by back-staging to today, elements of transition are identified and subsequently tested in experiments, and once found valid used to actually build the common vision in reality.

The small and diverse group of participants (European Parliament, NGO, business, academics) engaged in a lively and active discussion with speakers and each other. Notably from Prof Heinemann’s intervention, the key three take-aways were identified as (1) Break the path dependency : CAFP not for 13Mio but 500Mio co-producers (2) Evidence-base and methodology focusing on European Added Value and (3) separation of policy decision (CAP) from financial allocation (MS) to allow for more effectiveness.

Felix Mittermayer responded to this presentation with three remarks. (1) Why is agriculture different?  Externalities of European multifunctional agriculture legitimise public funding. (2) Who should the CAP address? 500Mio citizens as co-producers to decide in demand-driven National Strategy. (3) How should this be realised? Through a simplification of the current system to a pyramid of basic/mandatory to advanced/voluntary measures for all farmers to sign-up to as eligibility condition to receiving public support.

As a potential follow-up, the group discussed two options: (1) a general training on Transition management to achieve SDG across EU policies and (2) a more specific training on Transition management in establishing Governance structures for National Strategy programming.