Public consultations are opened about the Common Agricultural Policy

The European Commission has opened for three months a wide public consultation process on modernising and simplifying the Common Agriculture Policy. The future of the European agricultural landscapes runs until 2 May 2017. Have you already express your opinion?


Pasture landscape in S. Miguel, Azores, Portugal.
© 2017 Carla Gonçalves, CIVILSCAPE

Common Agricultural Policy is a major driven change on European landscapes. Farmers are responsible for managing more than half of the European territory. Are the problems of the rural world the concern of farmers alone? Does this has any relation with landscape? Have you already express your opinion on Common Agricultural Policy public consultation? Don’t miss this chance to help shape the future of our landscapes! The public consultation has already started and runs until 2 May 2017.

Olive plantation. Alfândega da Fé and Vila Flor, Portugal.
© 2017 Carla Gonçalves

General overview on CAP

Over several centuries and even nowadays, European landscapes are shaped by agriculture. Most parts of Europe were a wooded climax natural vegetation which agriculture and grazing has transformed to open landscapes. Currently agriculture landscapes remain the main landscape type in Europe. However, during the last decades, they have shown a profound intensification of European agricultural practices. The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is a major driven change on European landscapes and have been responsible for an accelerating on its transformation. Providing incentives to modify land use and farming practices, CAP has had a strong influence on shaping our landscapes. Even on the preamble of the European Landscape Convention it’s stated the developments in agriculture (and other sectors) have changed the world economy which in many cases is accelerating landscape transformation (Council of Europe, 2000). Of course, that are many other sectors or policies drivers of land use change in Europe and CAP isn’t the only factor affecting landscape changes and transformation, but I believe that there is a strong evidence in supporting this opinion.

CAP is a policy with a long history which was established in 1962. Many adaptations have been made since its establishment and currently the European Commission has been preparing its reform. A public consultation has already started and runs until 2 May 2017 (More information at: ).

The original priority of the CAP was to increase agricultural productivity in order to guarantee a stable food supply at affordable prices and to ensure a viable agricultural sector, facilitating an open common EU market, and to stabilize agricultural markets and farmer’s income. CAP has evolved from price and market policies into a system of income support on a hectare basis and more recently into an income subsidies. In the first 20 years of its application, CAP didn’t consider landscape or environmental measures or even addressed the territorial regional dimension of farmer’s problems. With the 1992´s reform and following the Rio Earth summit, CAP included environmental protection into its measures. In the 1999’s reform a new policy for rural development was developed – second pillar of CAP – recognizing the multi-functionality of agriculture (landscapes). It’s most recent reform occurred in 2013 and introduced the “green direct payments”. The EU considers that agriculture as a key sector must be sustainable but also competitive (is decoupling economic growth from environmental impact possible?). For that CAP ensures income support to farmers based on market orientation, market measures to balance impacts on vulnerable common agriculture markets and rural development programmes (European Union, 2017).

With the European Commission’s Public Consultation on the future of the CAP now open, we have a unique opportunity to influence it and have our voice heard. Birdlife Europe & Central Asia, the European Environmental Bureau and WWF EU has launched “The Living Land campaign” expressing their concerns on the need for a fundamental reform on the Europe’s food and farming system.

“The Living Land campaign”

The EU consultation on CAP reform consists on a questionnaire of multiple choice questions and open questions. The “Living Land campaign” considers that the CAP needs a strong reform that must achieve fairness for farmers and rural communities, environmental sustainability for clean air and water, healthy soil, and thriving plant and animal life, healthier for good food and the well-being of all people and a global responsibility for the planet’s climate and sustainable development around the world.

To help the European citizens, “Living Land campaign”, which counts with the support of several organizations and individuals, have prepared their own recommended responses to the consultation and have outlined their rationale for these recommendations, which you can find here: I truly suggest you have a look on it and to reflect on our position regarding agricultural policies and its effects on landscape character. I must strengthen that this campaign was launched by three biodiversity conservation NGO’s, so their main concern is the role of agriculture practices on biodiversity conservation. I think this is a good basis for me to build my own answer focusing on what matters me the most: the effects of CAP on landscape.

CAP and landscape

CAP has had an important role on the modernisation and competitiveness of European agriculture, but also on landscape homogenization.

Towards a uniformed land use in Europe? Azores, Portugal (above) and Ireland (below).
© 2017 Carla Gonçalves

Even though CAP isn’t a landscape policy, it’s has had a strong influence on European landscape evolution. During its history, we have loss many traditional features (trees, field margins, hedges….) or even traditional knowledge and uses. I believe that this public consultation is an opportunity to make our voices heard and to reinforce the great worth of high quality European agricultural landscapes, based on their local distinctiveness and on the traditional knowledge and uses.

CAP needs to move from outmoded and non-targeted ‘decoupled payments’ to modern ‘incentives’ to deliver benefits for wider society. Farmers provide public goods (climate action, ecosystem services, biodiversity protection, landscape services) that urban or industrial societies should pay for, because they also benefit from it.

CAP reform must contribute to food production but also to the protection of cultural heritage, safeguarding the local and traditional knowledge and improving quality of life. CAP measures must also reflect on landscape management because this policy influences our everyday landscape.

“Socalcos” in Arcos de Valdevez, Portugal.
© 2017 Carla Gonçalves

It’s true that we don’t know how agricultural landscapes would have changed in the absence of the CAP but if you want to go a step farther on CAP reform, I ask you to disseminate this message among your members, reinforcing the role that each one of us has on the decision-making process.

Participate here:

Best wishes from Porto,

Carla Gonçalves, landscape architect
CIVILSCAPE Social Media Working-Group

We asked Carla Gonçalves, a member of our Social Media Working Group, a reflection on this issue – The article “TIME TO RETHINK CAP!” expresses her opinion.

The views expressed in the article are purely those of the author and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of CIVILSCAPE.