Butter mountain finally melts

Cow in the AzoresThe satisfied look of this cow in the Azores is no great surprise as it receives one of the biggest cattle subsidies in the EU, although still not enough for Portugal who voted against the last CAP reform on the issue of the fate of dairy cows in the Atlantic islands. After 39 years of a butter mountain under the CAP, it has finally melted away. When the Soviet Union still existed, stocks of ‘ageing’ butter used to be sold off to its consumers who were glad to get any butter at all.

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Fruit & veg reform could bring health benefits

Seeing through the Commission’s proposal for reform of the fruit and vegetable regime could bring health benefits. With the exception of Greece and Italy no EU member state is currently meeting the World Health Organisation’s recommended consumption rate of 400kg per day per capita. From the viewpoint of Commission officials, getting consumption up to the WHO minimum level would also provide a commercial answer to the sector’s marketing problems.

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Fruit & veg reform could bring health benefits

Seeing through the Commission’s proposal for reform of the fruit and vegetable regime could bring health benefits. With the exception of Greece and Italy no EU member state is currently meeting the World Health Organisation’s recommended consumption rate of 400kg per day per capita. From the viewpoint of Commission officials, getting consumption up to the WHO minimum level would also provide a commercial answer to the sector’s marketing problems.

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Why farm subsidies are bad for young farmers

Today, in Brussels, the Commission is hosting a special day for European young farmers. The day is being billed as part of the consultation in the run-up to the CAP health check, after which this blog is named. What is unlikely to be discussed at the meeting are the very real reasons why the current system of farm subsidies are overwhelmingly bad for young farmers and new farmers seeking to make a start in agriculture in the European Union.

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One vision, two steps

It sounds like a Maoist slogan, but farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel set out a ‘one vision, two steps’ plan for the reform of the CAP at the recent Agra Europe conference in London. As she has made clear before, the forthcoming Health Check which will address the period up until 2013 is seen largely as a tidying up exercise rather than an opportunity for further fundamental reform. The Commission is currently preparing a Green Paper on the Health Check but this is not expected to be ready until after the summer.

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A food fight over the farm bill

As the European Union gears up for the CAP Health Check in 2008, the United States is already deep in debate over the Farm Bill, which is due for renewal this year. Just as the CAP sets Europe’s farm policies, the Farm Bill (each one lasting for 5 years) defines agriculture policy for the US. And just like the CAP, the Farm Bill is hostage to the narrow producer interests that benefit directly from the policy: big, industrial agribusiness and farmers who monoculture the five big subsidized crops: corn, soya beans, wheat, rice and sugar. ‘Outsiders’ such as consumers, taxpayers, conservationists and those speaking up for farmers in poor developing countries rarely get much of a look in.

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Sea of Ignorance

A new Eurobarometer survey has found that 72 per cent of respondents considered themselves to be uninformed on agricultural issues and over half (54 per cent) had never heard or read about the CAP. The 43 per cent who claim to have at least some degree of awareness comprises of 34 per cent who say ‘they don’t really know exactly what it is’ and just 9 per cent who say they know ‘exactly what it is’.

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