About the project
The GRASS Croatia action has been devised and implemented by the Croatian Agricultural Agency and it is co-financed by the European Commission – DG AGRI.
The objective of the action raising awareness about the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union, significance of the CAP for sustainability and development of rural areas, farms, food quality and safety – and thereby for quality of life of the entire population as well as overall economic development.
We intend to achieve the above objectives through a series of informational measures and events, i.e. in direct contact with farmers and general population.
What is the CAP?
The common agricultural policy (CAP) is a set of measures and programmes supporting agriculture in the European Union designed to regulate production and sales of agricultural produce in the EU. It has been established in order to achieve the following objectives:
• Increase agricultural production through application of technological achievements, boost productivity and effectiveness of use of natural resources – especially workforce
• Ensure farmers’ living standard, especially increase income of individuals pursuing agricultural production
• Stabilise markets and facilitate supply of healthy and high-quality products to consumers at appropriate prices
What is the purpose of the CAP?
Why is the “common” agricultural policy needed at the EU level?
Agriculture is nearly the only sector enjoying European support – contrary to most other sectors that are subject to national policies. It is important to have a public policy in the sector that has a key role in use of natural resources and development of rural areas while ensuring safety of our food.
Those objectives are common to all Member States and they may not be achieved without financial support to the agricultural sector and rural areas.
Therefore it is necessary to take measures at the European level in order to guarantee fair conditions with a common set of objectives, principles and rules. A collective EU policy also makes for better use of budgetary resources than would the coexistence of national policies.
Beyond managing the single EU market, other objectives that must be addressed at trans-national level include: cohesion across member states and regions, cross-border environmental problems, and global challenges such as climate change, water management, biodiversity, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, plant health and public health as well as consumer interests.
Statistical indicators – European agriculture
How rural is the EU?
Rural areas represent more than 77 % of the EU territory (47 % accounts for agricultural land and 30 % are forests) and they are inhabited by about half of the EU population (agricultural communities and other inhabitants).
How many farmers are there in the EU?
There are 12 million full-time farmers in the EU. Overall, agriculture and the agri-foods industry – which is heavily dependent on the agricultural sector for its supplies – account for 6 % of the EU’s GDP, comprise 15 million businesses and provide 46 million jobs.
Problem no. 1: Depopulation and rural areas
Croatia is experiencing overall depopulation as a dominant demographic process in the country. Its rural areas are especially affected – whereby they suffer socio-demographic depression – because those processes are exacerbated by diminishing economic activity, high unemployment rate, long-term economic migrations and consequently reduced level of social and cultural life in rural areas as well as increasing disproportion of development levels of those areas. Current demographic trends threaten the overall development of the country. If unchecked, they would specifically cause an adverse effect on rural areas by 2031, turning them into mere collections of old-age households with significantly reduced level of economic and overall development of rural areas. Those trends affect all rural areas of Croatia (encompassing 90 % of its territory and 47 % of its population, i.e. more than 2 million people). Even those areas which enjoyed an overall growth of population in 2001–2011 are facing the same problems. For instance, population of the Istria County grew in the period by 1 %, but its agricultural population decreased by 10 %.
Problem no. 2: Structure of population employed in agriculture
On 31 March 2012, approximately 2.2 % of persons employed by Croatian legal persons were active in the primary sector (25,667), and 4.3 % of those employed by crafts (9,108) were active in the field of agriculture, forestry and fishing. Those figures compare unfavourably to 2010 EU-27 indicators where 5.1 % of employees were active in agriculture alone. In 2014, there were 185,965 family farms in Croatia providing income to 297,544 persons (1.6 persons per family farm or approximately 14 % of rural population). However, it should be noted that those farms are relatively small (5.6 hectares on average) and that the average age of family farm owner stands at 59.8 years (and they are normally managed by elderly couples). Moreover, only 4.5 % of family farm owners are aged 35 or less, thereby making unfavourable trends affecting the rural areas even worse.
Solution no. 1: Significance of the primary sector and development challenges
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, The CAP towards 2020: Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges of the future states that the primary sector represents the source of employment for 16 % of persons in rural areas of the EU. Even though the proportion of the Croatian rural population whose income originates from family farms is somewhat below 16 %, its age structure represents a far greater challenge for sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas.
Family farms play an important role in meeting the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy and ensuring the sustainable EU agriculture sector
The CAP and family farms
Solution no. 2: Family farming is more than a profession – it’s a way of life.
Being the most common operational farming model, family farming has ensured the growth of Europe’s agricultural sector for centuries. Today’s ambitious European Union (EU) policy framework is designed to take account of the different models of agriculture existing in the EU, including the diverse types of family farming. It focuses strongly on providing a clear response to citizens’ demands for food security and aims to meet continuously rising expectations with regards to the safety, quality, value, origin and diversity of food. At the same time, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has helped to maintain rural lifestyles, and has provided a significant contribution to rural economic and social development.
Family farming is the foundation upon which agriculture in Europe has thrived over the centuries. Since the outset of the European Union, agriculture has been at the centre of a strong and ambitious policy framework. In terms of rural development, under the second pillar, the CAP Reform offers many relevant opportunities to family-run farm businesses, such as support for agricultural advisory services and measures promoting farm diversification, restructuring, modernisation, training and knowledge transfer. Although family farming remains – by a long way – the most common model of farming operations in Europe, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive definition of what this constitutes. Ask the question, ‘what is a family farm?’ to a hundred different farmers and a hundred different answers may result, reflecting the breath and range of family farms in operation in Europe and around the world. The vast majority of all EU farm holdings (97%) can be categorised as family farms. Family farms cover around 69% of the EU’s agricultural land, and their average size amounts to 10 hectares.
Regardless of the farm size, output or production methods used, family farming clearly exhibits certain distinct characteristics related to location, needs and priorities, and historical and cultural farming circumstances that should be maintained and promoted.
Family farm enterprises are also essential to maintaining the vitality of rural life and the rural economy in Europe (and beyond). A capacity for flexibility is engrained in the DNA of the family farming sector, a fact that bodes well in terms of meeting today’s emphasis on food security and on promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in rural areas.
The CAP and the environment
What is the impact of agriculture on the environment?
Agriculture foster and benefit a sustainable environment, but it can also harm the environment. The CAP has an important role in striking a balance between those two extremes, and that role will become decisive in the years to come.
How does the CAP contribute to protection of the environment?
With the CAP reform adopted in June 2013, all Member States, all rural areas and all farmers will contribute to the efforts promoting sustainability and combating climate changes using simple measures whose beneficial effects have been proven. Between 2014 and 2020, over EUR 100 billion will be invested to help agriculture meet the challenges of soil and water quality, biodiversity and climate change.
• “Greening”: 30% of direct payments will be linked to three environmentally-friendly farming practices: crop diversification, maintaining permanent grassland and conserving 5%, and later 7%, of areas of ecological interest as from 2018 or measures considered to have at least equivalent environmental benefits.
• At least 30% of the budget earmarked for rural development programmes should be allocated to agri-environmental measures, support for organic agriculture or projects associated with investments or innovative measures that are beneficial to the environment.
• Agri-environmental measures will be reinforced. They should complement practices supported through the greening measures. These programmes must become even more ambitious and thus effective in respect of environmental protection objectives (guarantee against double funding).
Food quality and safety – Is our food safe?
The EU has significantly improved food safety since 1990s, specifically by introducing hygiene measures, rules on animal and plant health, and controls of pesticide residues and additives in food. Food regulations in Europe are among the strictest in the world.
How does the EU guarantee food quality?
Food quality is guaranteed through labelling, marketing and quality rules, such as the protection of geographical indications, mandatory nutritional information on labels, quality logos and animal welfare standards, etc.
In addition to hygiene rules which guarantee product safety, the EU has developed:
• market standards applicable to products sold in the Union;
• optional quality terms indicating the quality of the product on its label;
• European quality systems used to determine products meeting specific quality standards:
• “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) or “Protected Geographical Indication” (PGI) for indication of quality linked to geographical origin;
• “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” (TSG);
• a special EU logo for organic products compliant to strict production requirements;
• guidelines designed to improve functioning of food quality certification systems guaranteeing compliance with certain product characteristics or production methods.
Support provided to farmers – Why do farmers need government support?
Contrary to popular belief in some countries, farming is not a money-spinner – far from it. Farmers’ investments in time and money are always at the mercy of economic, health and weather conditions beyond their control. Agriculture requires heavy human and financial investments that bear fruit only months or even years later and remains constantly vulnerable.
Provision of support for the farmers’ incomes ensures that food remains in production throughout the EU and compensates them for the provision of public benefits which are not valued by the market: environmental protection, animal welfare, safe, high-quality food, etc.
The “public benefit” aspect is all the more significant since the standards applicable in the European Union are among the strictest in the world. Therefore production of food is more expensive in Europe than in countries where more lenient standards apply.
Without public support, European farmers could not compete with farmers from other countries and meet particular expectations of European citizens. Additionally, increasing effects of climate changes mean that costs of sustainable agriculture may only grow.
Why should we support agriculture when the price of food is high?
Food production costs have a relatively small impact on the price of food paid by consumers. Cost of cereals represents only 5 % of the price of bread. Consumer price increases do not necessarily mean that farmers’ income has increased. This is particularly true because farmers themselves are faced with rising costs of their own production. Farmers are increasingly exposed to volatility of markets and prices – that are more frequent and stronger than in the past. In recent years, farms’ energy bills increased by 223 % and the price of fertilisers rose by 163 %. Agricultural prices have increased by 50 % on average.
Benefit from the CAP even though you are not a farmer
As a taxpayer who is not a farmer, can I benefit from the CAP?
You are already one of its beneficiaries. The entire society benefits from the EU support to its farmers. The support ensures food supply at affordable prices. An average European family uses 15 % of its annual budget for food – i.e. half as much as in 1960.
By supporting sustainable agricultural practices through the CAP, we contribute to protection of our environment and biodiversity of our rural landscapes and our nutrition.