News | 20 Jan 2023

Putting the evaluation pieces in place to assess the next CAP’s performance

Feeding Europe’s growing population requires more sustainable food production, but another summer of extreme weather, alongside severely disrupted supply chains, have once again highlighted the need to move towards a more resilient and regenerative food system.

Sustainable food production

Feeding Europe’s growing population requires more sustainable food production, but another summer of extreme weather, alongside severely disrupted supply chains, have once again highlighted the need to move towards a more resilient and regenerative food system – and the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) (2023 - 2027) is set to see EU Member States refocus the policy on results through new monitoring and evaluation expectations.

Putting the evaluation pieces in place is key with regard to assessing the performance of the next CAP as is the role of EU Member States in demonstrating its impact. 

Measuring real-world impact is vital for showing the success of a policy in meeting its objectives, particularly when the aim is to address a range of economic, environmental, and social factors. The next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is therefore shifting EU Member States away from compliance and more towards results and performance, hoping it can show how their agriculture sectors and rural areas are on a sustainable path forward.

Results will be anchored in terms of how EU Member States contribute to the CAP’s objectives, from decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture to the stability or increase of the agricultural income and growing of rural businesses. The rulebook on how EU Member States will exactly demonstrate the CAP’s impact to these objectives is based around a new framework that provides a common understanding on monitoring performance and evaluating the implementation of Strategic Plans.

The Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (PMEF) will “allow reporting, monitoring, and evaluation of the performance” throughout the implementation of EU Member States’ CAP Strategic Plans from 2023 until 2027. It will set the basis to monitor EU Member States’ progress towards achieving the targets of CAP Strategic Plans, to assess the impact, effectiveness, efficiency, relevance and coherence of the interventions of the CAP Strategic Plans and the EU added value of the CAP, and support a common learning process for monitoring and evaluation.

The PMEF also contains a set of common indicators for monitoring, evaluation and annual performance reporting, such as output indicators for monitoring the implementation of the CAP, result indicators to monitor EU Member States’ progress towards pre-set targets, and context and impact indicators to assess the overall policy performance against CAP objectives. This information will differ depending on how each EU Member State designs and implements its national CAP Strategic Plan because it covers the different measures available under direct payments and sectoral programmes, funded by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF), as well as rural development interventions, funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

Critically, the PMEF provides significant flexibility for EU Member States compared to previous CAP programming periods, allowing them to design their evaluation activities according to the progress of their Strategic Plans. Although no evaluation milestones are set, unlike the enhanced Annual Implementation Reports of 2017 and 2019, EU Member States must still undertake comprehensive evaluation activities during the implementation of their CAP Strategic Plans. According to the recently published Implementing Act by the European Commission, EU Member States must assess the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence, EU added value and impact of every specific objective addressed in the context of their CAP Strategic Plans – at an appropriate point during the implementation period. In doing so, they may group together, in a single evaluation, several specific objectives, ensuring that the contribution of the underlying interventions to each specific objective is clearly and separately estimated.

Beyond assessing performance towards specific objectives, EU Member States must also undertake evaluations of specific topics, such as environmental and climate architecture, the added value of LEADER, Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) or CAP Networks. Finally, a comprehensive evaluation of the CAP Strategic Plans and the contribution to the general objectives of the CAP must be done ex post by each EU Member State and completed by the end of 2031.

Why planning and performance go hand-in-hand

The increased flexibility and requirements spelled out above require a thorough planning of evaluation activities. For this, each EU Member State must design an Evaluation Plan, which sets out its own objectives based on the country’s evaluation-related needs. It must also describe how these objectives will be achieved by addressing governance and coordination of evaluations, along with an indicative timeline covering approaches to data collection, communication of evaluation findings and capacity building.

Stakeholders’ participation is key to the development and implementation of a sound and inclusive evaluation strategy and, for this, EU Member States are being called upon to map all relevant stakeholders and their specific needs, both in terms of evaluation topics and the capacity building that is needed. Moreover, the Evaluation Plan must be presented to and discussed with the members of the Monitoring Committee of each CAP Strategic Plan.

Equipped with the tools provided by the PMEF and a strong Evaluation Plan, EU Member States can then demonstrate the impact of their CAP Strategic Plans to economic, environmental and social goals for agri-food sector and rural areas, but their role doesn’t stop at their borders. They are also fundamental data providers, enabling the Commission to demonstrate the impact of the CAP at the EU level. EU Member States will provide the Commission with data concerning the output and result indicators by means of the Annual Performance Reports and, in addition, they will share disaggregated, anonymised data for every intervention and beneficiary, as well as for specific topics such as sectoral interventions, European Innovation Partnership (EIP) operational groups and LEADER. Additionally, EU Member States will share the findings of all the evaluations completed during the evaluation and ex post, allowing the Commission to synthesise them and paint the picture of the joint effort towards the achievement of the CAP objectives.

Having all these findings and data creates an even bigger advantage to academics and researchers, ultimately opening up the CAP’s implementation to more intense scrutiny – and ensuring a transparent debate that can shape a future CAP that demonstrates impact across the EU.

Find out what else has changed along with some tips on how to prepare for the PMEF in the latest issue of CAP Evaluation News.