Pressures on EU policy and resources have grown almost to breaking point. Many parts of the Eurozone still struggle with a glacially slow recovery from the 2007/8 financial crisis and populist movements which have a large Eurosceptic element have arisen in many Member States centring around discontent with migration levels and coping with the unprecedented flow of refugees in 2015 and 2016.  At the same time, the goals of international agreements which the EU has helped to sign: the COP21 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sustainable Development goals, must be shown to be fully integrated into the CAP.  Yet the last reform of the CAP led to great disillusionment across most stakeholder groups.  There remains confusion surrounding the greening elements and calls to find new innovative ways to try and cut down on the complexities.  There is discontent with the distribution of the supports under the policy and many are beginning to question whether, against current environmental indicators, the CAP as it stands is good value for public money. 

Given this context, the value for money from EU expenditures under the CAP will clearly come under intense scrutiny.  As discussions around the policy’s future grow, the RISE Foundation decided to add another dimension to the discourse by bringing together experts in agricultural policy to contemplate upon what a future CAP could look like.  The brief for this project was to move away from the specifics and details of how the current CAP could be further reformed, and try to create a vision of what an entirely new CAP should look like if it was created in our current situation today.

The project started by building a persuasive argument as to why the current CAP needs a fundamental system of reform and to show how it is imperative that the status quo cannot remain.  It went onto imagining what such a reform might look like, specifically, integrating environmental land management into a streamlined CAP and managing volatility and risk.  Finally, it reflected upon how such a reform might be bought about, arguing that significant changes in governance and institutions may be necessary to realise the suggested reforms.

The report

The analysis laid out in this RISE Foundation report shows how the current CAP does not make best use of the considerable resources deployed to support land managers through the necessary transition.  The largest instruments of the CAP, the pillar 1 direct payments, which account for over 70% of CAP funds are ineffective, inefficient and inequitable.  It is suggested that these direct payments should be systematically reduced and resources switched to provide targeted assistance, including transitional adjustment assistance to help farmers adapt and rise to the specific challenges of improving productivity, resource efficiency and risk management and to pay farmers to provide specific environmental and other public goods.

The report argues that the two principal aspects of the CAP requiring the most attention are land management and risk management. Where land management is concerned, the greatest worry is that the current environmental standards are not being met. The report therefore proposes a redesigned, more integrated tiered structure of supports with clearer targets on the environmental outcomes sought. The core issue concerning risk management is that the present approach in the CAP towards market orientation has not gone far enough. Indeed the sheer scale of direct payment inhibits farmers from better mitigating the risks they face.  The report outlines the full range of instruments that are most appropriate for managing risk at the farm level, market level and nationally at times of catastrophic risk.

Finally, following the lessons that have been learnt from previous successful reforms, the report suggests some procedural changes to kick-start a more effective reform process which brings together more constructively the conflicting interests in agricultural policy.

The report can be freely downloaded from the publications section.


Two events took place during the course of the project:

  • CAP discussion 10/1/2017 – European Parliament (10/1/2017) – As ever, the RISE works to ensure that its ideas are not generated in a silo but rather are developed as part of an active debate across a wide range of stakeholders. The initial ideas were presented for questioning and debate at the European Parliament on January 10th 2017 where we were kindly invited by the EP Intergroup on Biodiversity and Hunting at a lunch time debate before continuing the debate at the RISE office. (read the report of the event)

  • Launch of the final report (27/3/2017)- The final report was released at a Forum for the Future of Agriculture Workshop on the 27th of March 2017 where we had a wide range of representatives from all interested sectors to debate our proposals. Read here a complete report of the CAP launch event.

Consultation process

This report was produced by a Task Force and an advisory committee was appointed to guide and provide input into the development of the projects thinking.  All members of the Advisory Committee comment and interact with the project on a personal basis.

Task force members

Director: Professor Allan Buckwell

Professor Allan Buckwell is an agricultural economist with over 30 years’ experience specialising in agricultural and rural policy. This has involved his work as Academic Director of the last two RISE reports on Sustainable Intensification of European Agriculture and Nutrient Recovery and Reuse in European Agriculture.  He has been a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (since 2012), fourteen years at Newcastle University and then from 1984-1999 as Professor of Agricultural Economics, Wye College University of London (which was merged into Imperial College). During this period he specialised in teaching and research into all aspects of European rural policy dealing especially with the Common Agricultural Policy, trade issues, and technology and structural change in farming and its impacts.

Professor Alan Matthews

Alan Matthews is Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.  He is a past-President of the European Association of Agricultural Economists and is currently a member of Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council. His research interests include agricultural policy analysis, the impact of agricultural policies on developing countries, and trade, WTO and food security issues. He is a regular contributor to the blog on issues relating to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

Dr David Baldock

David Baldock’s background is in philosophy and economics. He is an active fellow of the Institute for European Environmental Policy and joined the Institute in the mid-1980s to establish a programme of work on agricultural and rural environmental issues. He became Deputy Director in 1992, Director in 1998 and an active Senior Fellow in 2016. As well as being an authority on European agricultural policy and the environment, David’s specialist areas include EU strategies for climate, natural resources and public investment. He has an active interest in sustainable development and the growing implications of building a bio-economy.

Professor Erik Mathijs

Erik Mathijs is Director of SFERE (Sustainable Food Economies Research Group) and Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven. He holds a Master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering (major: agricultural economics and sociology; minor: soil science) from KU Leuven (1991) and a PhD in Agricultural Economics, also from KU Leuven (1998). His research focuses on the transformation of the agricultural and food system towards sustainability and resilience. He is coordinator of the FP7 project TRANSMANGO (Assessment of the impact of drivers of change on Europe’s food and nutrition security) and the Horizon2020 project SUFISA (Sustainable finance for sustainable agriculture and fisheries)—which both aim to formulate policy recommendations fostering the transformation of the European agricultural and food system. He was an independent member of the High Level Steering Board of the European Innovation Partnership “Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability”, and acted respectively as rapporteur and chair of the expert group of the 3rd (2011) and 4th (2015) Foresight Exercise for the EU’s Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR).

Dr Corrado Pirzio Biroli

Dr Corrado Pirzio-Biroli is the CEO of the RISE Foundation. From 1994 to the end of 2004, he was the Chief of Staff of Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries Franz Fischler. He was deeply involved in elaborating the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reforms of 1999 and 2003-2004, and also contributed to the first ever reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (2003). Prior to his post as Chief of Staff, he was EU ambassador in Vienna (1992-1994), EU Minister and Chargé d’Affaires in Washington (1988-1992), in charge of EFTA affairs (1985-1988), member of Commission President Thorn’s cabinet in charge of the EU budget (1982-1984), economic advisor at the EU delegation to the US (1978-1982) and principal administrator for development policies (1971-1978). He holds a Doctorate in Economics and Business Administration and post-graduate diplomas from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague in economic planning and industrial development programming, respectively.

Advisory Committee

Professor Tim BENTON
Professor Heino VON MEYER
Professor Joachim VON BRAUN
Professor Sophie THOYER


This project received financial support from FNPSMS-maiz’EUROP’, Syngenta, Acqua e Sole and UNIGRAINS.