The milk quota mess

As the debate goes on in the EU about whether milk quotas can be increased by 2 per cent as part of the soft landing when they are eventually abolished in 2015, it is an opportunity to reflect how milk quotas have affected the UK dairy industry. They were introduced in 1984 to ease the severe budgetary crisis brought about by the structural surplus of milk in Europe. They worked in terms of limiting production growth and coping with the budgetary crisis, but they brought a lot of unintended (or intended) problems in their wake.

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Well fancy that…

What a difference a change of ministerial portfolio makes! Back in 2006, Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for International Development, was strident in his criticisms of the CAP:

“Through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), two fifths of the EU budget goes on subsidies and support to Europe’s farmers who represent 5% of Europe’s population, and produce less than 2% of Europe’s output. Most is not spent in the poorer parts of Europe where it is needed. Most goes to the biggest farming companies and landowners, not small farmers.”

Times change, Prime Ministers come and go, and Hilary Benn is now Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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Podcast: February Agriculture Council round-up with Roger Waite

Roger Waite is a long-standing member of the Brussels agricultural press pack and he will be giving a podcast round-up of the monthly Agriculture Council meetings, when farm ministers from all 27 EU member states met to decide the future of EU agriculture and rural development policy. In this month’s meeting, EU farm ministers debated the Commission’s ideas for the health check, the latest position of the WTO Doha Round negotiations and the impact of rising feed prices on European pig farmers.

As well as being the founding editor of the AgraFacts news subscription service, Roger is a Journalism Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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Agriculture Council fun: rename the CAP

Agra-Facts is one of the best CAP news sources, although it does come with a fairly hefty price tag that probably puts it out of reach of anyone who is not professionally involved in European agriculture policy. Roger Waite, Agra Facts editor, tells me that he would like to open the Agra Facts competition to ‘rename the CAP’ to readers of this blog. Here are the details, and be sure to scroll down the page for our exclusive interactive name generator tool.

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Fischler speaks out

I have recently been working with others on an edited collection to be brought out from the Centre for Policy Studies in Brussels which re-visits the Fischler reforms of the CAP. The discussions held in relation to the book, which involved some people who knew Fischler’s work well, confirmed my view that he was someone who combined strategic vision with a wily use of tactics and an understanding of which political buttons to push when. Now the former farm supremo has provided a rare interview to Agra Focus. One of the intresting points he makes that two much is made of the difference between the two pillars: ‘They are man-made and we should not make an icon of these structures.’ What is important is that the money goes to the right recipients.

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Dutch farmers get most subsidy per hectare

One proposal in the Commission’s health check communication of 20 November 2007 is that the member states which still allocate farm subsidies on the basis of historic entitlements should move to the area average system in which allocations are the same across all hectares in a given geographical region. But it looks as though this change will be optional, according to a speech made by Commissioner Fischer Boel in Ireland on 29 January. Moreover, the flat rate system does nothing to address the striking inequalities between member states, which shows that on average, Dutch farmers get €1299 per hectare, while Portuguese farmers get just €88.

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Commission drops plan to reduce 'fat cat' farm subsidies

Top Commission officials have confirmed that in the face of opposition from four member states (Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and the UK) as well as many farm unions, Mariann Fischer Boel has dropped plans to cut the very largest farm subsidy payments by 45 per cent. The plan, which would have affected an estimated 23,000 farms that receive in excess of €300,000 a year, a list which is dominated by Europe’s wealthiest landowners such as the Duke of Westminster, Prince Albert of Monaco and the Crown Prince of Liechtenstein.

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Commission drops plan to reduce ‘fat cat’ farm subsidies

Top Commission officials have confirmed that in the face of opposition from four member states (Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and the UK) as well as many farm unions, Mariann Fischer Boel has dropped plans to cut the very largest farm subsidy payments by 45 per cent. The plan, which would have affected an estimated 23,000 farms that receive in excess of €300,000 a year, a list which is dominated by Europe’s wealthiest landowners such as the Duke of Westminster, Prince Albert of Monaco and the Crown Prince of Liechtenstein.

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