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The Common Agricultural Policy: Investing in Technology

By Stanislas Demeestere -

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been a major pillar in the EU, effectively unifying the Union’s agriculture practices to benefit producer, consumer, and lately the environment. The CAP is no small feat as it takes up almost a third of the EU’s budget. At the centre of the structure and policy have traditionally been two pillars: direct support for farmers, and market measures and rural development.

In its long history, the CAP has known many iterations and priorities, this in order to keep the document alive and relevant. The last of these sets the table for the post 2020-period, adapted to new challenges and opening up to new opportunities. The indirect twofold funding scheme at the nucleus of the CAP has largely remained unchanged, providing farmers and the wider agri-business with security for the coming years. The future has been set up, however, with a simplified way of working through a system of general yet clear objectives to be achieved by the Union as a whole. These nine objectives include ensuring  a fair income for farmers, environmental and biodiversity care, creating vibrant rural areas, rebalancing the food chain, and protecting food quality.

Enshrined in these objectives are a few interesting priorities the EU has set to build towards sustainable agriculture, leveraging technology, and innovation. The aim to invest in small and medium-sized (family) farms shows clear devotion to an agricultural policy built on people rather than scale. The higher ambition on environmental and climate action, has then to be interpreted as a long-term investment in the future of farming and a form of inter-generational equity. Both these objectives are to be reached through a combination of nudging towards further-going efforts, and certain obligations enforced by conditionality of direct payments: where the CAP financially helps farmers through income support.

The EU does take a third approach to reaching these goals, however, and this is where IoF2020 comes into the limelight. Greater use of knowledge and innovation in the field of agriculture ought to tapped into, to foster rural development, improved flexibility, and competitive as well as sustainable farming. In the specific budget the CAP set aside under Horizon Europe - the succession to Horizon 2020 which is part of the funding scheme of IoF - special recognition is included for technologies currently used under IoF2020. Having these technologies as one of the great new strides the EU is taking under CAP, is good news for stakeholders involved in IoF2020. The policy set out effectively provides security in future funding coming from the EU, as the projects under IoF2020 are in line with the strategies sought after by the €10 billion fund. In encouraging support coming from the Member States, each states’ Strategic Plan under the CAP ought to include a section on how to stimulate innovation and knowledge exchange and how to fund them nationally.

The CAP has thus clearly set out its path towards the future of farming and IoF2020 is determined to play a major role in that. The combination of supporting individual farmers on a transboundary scale using IoT technology and the innovation and knowledge exchange inevitably following therefrom, can be seen to have sprung on the radar of the CAP in the EU’s quest for the food of tomorrow.

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