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Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) misses out on subsidies from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The growth of CSA initiatives show that private land conservation is possible even without the help of EU agricultural subsidies!

By connecting producers and consumers through direct marketing, the entire value chain remains in the hand of the land user, enabling him/her to make a living while supporting lively communities and a healthy environment. Think what would be possible if the CAP supported such initiatives…

Although Brussels repeatedly stresses the CAP’s goals should be biodiversity and strong rural communities, it’s still the large-scale farmers who win big in the CAP. Eighty percent of direct payments go to only 20 percent of farms. While it is technically possible to support Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives within the CAP, there is no example of this ever having happened, according to the European Commission.

CSA appeals in many respects to the EU’s cardinal objectives: supporting smaller, often weak, rural communities and a more eco-friendly model. In just six years, 45 such schemes have popped up across the Belgian region of Flanders.

The most obvious way for CSA initiatives apply for funds would be as a “sub measure” under the so-called Pillar 2 of the CAP, dedicated to rural development spending. But most of the CAP budget is poured into Pillar 1, which provides the direct payments to big landowners.

There are numerous reasons for the lack of funding: many young farmers looking to set up small-scale farms that produce organic food and are more integrated into local markets lack the know-how to apply for CAP subsidies. In many cases, this is due to bureaucratic constraints. But critics of the CAP also point to a lack of political will — be it in national capitals or inside the European Commission — to move toward more sustainable farming models.

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