The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, has valued the new measures announced today by the European Commission to help the agricultural and livestock sector to face the unprecedented crisis caused by COVID-19 and which are part of the measures that Planas raised at the extraordinary Council of Ministers of the European Union (EU) held on March 25.
In the letter sent on March 20 by the minister to the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Janusz Wojciechowski, they called for changes in certain regulations of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as well as flexibility in the use of funds that, as a consequence of the health crisis, they will not be able to be used in their rural development programs (RDPs).
Regarding the CAP, both in the first pillar (direct aid) and in the second (rural development), the Commission accepts greater flexibility and simplification in line with Spain's demands.
In this way, the deadline for farmers and ranchers to submit their request for direct aid and rural development is extended until June 15, 2020. Spain had already extended until May 15 the maximum date foreseen in the community regulations at national level.
To increase the liquidity of farmers and ranchers, the Commission will increase direct payment advances (from 50% to 70%) as well as rural development payments (from 75% to 85%). About 700,000 Spanish farmers and ranchers will benefit from the advance, which they will receive from October 16.
According to Planas, this advance payment "is vital to ensure the economic viability of many agricultural and livestock farms that, being one of the strategic sectors to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic as guarantors of food supply, is also one of the sectors most affected by this crisis. "
In Spain, these advances will allow an advance of direct aid of more than 3,421 million euros (the advance of the basic payment scheme stands out, which, together with the green payment, will mean more than 2,926 million euros), out of a total of 4,953 million euros that are expected to be paid in the 2020 campaign. The rest of the direct payments of 2020 of the CAP will be made from December 1.
Minister Planas stressed that the EC agrees to reduce physical controls on the ground. This measure will help reduce administrative burden and avoid unnecessary delays. He pointed out that the current situation makes it difficult to pay the CAP aid, if all the regulations established for a normal year have to be complied with. In this way, there will be no loss of funds for farmers and ranchers.
Regarding the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), Planas has highlighted as positive the flexibility in the use of financial instruments, which will allow beneficiaries of these measures to benefit from loans of up to 200,000 euros on favorable terms , with very low interest rates, as well as favorable payment schedules.
Another of the measures requested by Spain, the possibility of reallocating funds to avoid their loss, will also be launched. Member States will be able to reallocate the money that has not been used in the RDPs, instead of having to return it to the Community budget. That money will have to be used under each PDR.
Likewise, the EC will allow postponing the presentation of annual reports on the execution of the RDPs, since it postpones the deadline for submitting them. This was another of the aspects requested by Spain and which is of great importance, since the payment of rural development programs is conditioned on the approval of these reports.