Better agriculture for a new Europe The EU is helping newer European states optimise agriculture. Key country reports are focusing on financial support, renewable energy, animal welfare and overcoming obstacles. Climate Change and Environment © Shutterstock Agriculture and farming are the backbone of society and the economy. We depend on safe, healthy crops and animals to invigorate our economy, boost trade and put food on the table. The sector's policies are always being shaped to guarantee the interests of both society and economy. There has been a need to refine these policies for the more recent EU Member States or upcoming Members, specifically those in central and eastern Europe. An EU-support action titled Agripolicy has studied the agricultural and rural sectors in these regions. It supported the application of EU agricultural policies by sharing information and strengthening policy formulation in 25 concerned countries. From Cyprus and Slovenia to Albania and Croatia, the EU has worked vigorously to shape agricultural policymaking in and around the continent. The project's accomplishments began with a collection of agriculture-based statistics in these nations and preparation of a report with key results. The Agripolicy team analysed agriculture and agricultural policy for eight candidate and potential candidate countries, including Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. It then created detailed country reports that would help policymakers and stakeholders streamline and upgrade agricultural policy, harmonising it with the rest of the EU. Various reports have been written for different sectors and topics. A revealing report on dairy, for example, describes the sector and estimates performance for all 20 countries. Each report provides insights into the sector's competitiveness, identifies key constraints to competitiveness and suggests key policy interventions. Another series of reports on renewable energy and its impact on rural development discusses relevance and potential of renewable energy for rural communities in 20 countries. Each report provides an overview of the use of renewable energies, a review of national policy and insights on its impact on the agricultural sector. One important report emerging from Agripolicy has centred on the impact of direct payments. Support for agriculture within the EU is mainly based on the concept of direct payments to farmers. These payments were introduced as partial compensation for price cuts for certain products. The payments represent financial compensation for the high standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and consumer protection in the EU compared to the production requirements in non-EU countries. This report investigates the impact of the current direct payment systems and provides insights into possible effects of different options for future direct payments. The results of the project have been presented at a workshop organised in May 2010. The findings of the study on direct payments will be used in future policymaking initiatives.