Food security: woolly thinking and self defeating solutions

As Jack Thurston has well exposed in his recent entry, the “food security” argument seems to be the new rally call for those trying to justify continuation of untargetted payments to farmers, or even a return to production support (albeit disguised as “risk management”, “income insurance” and the like). At a recent debate I was struck by the fact that the “food security” threat, and hence the need to support further agriculture intensification was almost universally endorsed, including by “CAP reformers”. While Jack has given a powerful argument for refuting the neo-Malthusian scaremongering about looming food shortage, you don’t actually need to believe in a future of plenty to call the bluff on this line of reasoning.… Read the rest

WTO Agricultural Chair presents new modalities paper

The Chair of the agricultural negotiations at the WTO, Crawford Falconer, released his latest version of the draft modalities for an agricultural agreement on Friday last 8 February. This is the culmination of a series of intensive meetings since early January among a representative group of some 37 WTO members. Although there are still many square brackets in the text, representing areas where final political agreement will only be reached in the context of an overall trade-off against concessions in the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations, the text provides greater clarity on many of the more contentious issues that were outstanding in the previous incarnation of these draft modalities last July.… Read the rest

European Parliament takes aim at CAP direct payments

A new report commissioned by the Budget Committee of the European Parliament makes interesting reading. The report, written by Jorge Núñez Ferrer (a former Commission fonctionnaire) and Eleni A. Kaditi, both of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, aims to asses whether the CAP provides ‘added value’. Núñez Ferrer and Kaditi define this as whether “the benefits outweigh the costs, not only of implementing the policy, but also the costs created in other areas.” The authors don’t pull their punches, particularly when it comes to direct payments which, costing some €30 billion a year, are by far the biggest ticket item in the CAP.… Read the rest

Churchill, Malthus, Brown, Barnier and agricultural protectionism

Earlier this week, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Churchill Confidential, a dramatisation of British cabinet meetings chaired by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, records of which have only recently been released into the public domain. In this week’s episode, looking at Churchill’s second term of office (1951-55), we get an overview of the pressing issues of state at that time: the impending conflict with Egypt over the Suez Canal, the development of the British atom bomb, balancing Britain’s relationships with its European neighbours and the United States of America, immigration and race relations, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the devaluation of the pound and, somewhat incongruously… a decision on whether to reduce the meat ration.… Read the rest

Farm unions split over payment limits

It should come as no surprise that the EU level farm union COPA-COGECA’s response to the Commission’s communication on the CAP health check is reminiscent of King Canute, trying to hold back the tide. What is very interesting, however, is that in important areas the response contains dissenting voices (or ‘reserves’) expressed by a handful of COPA-COGECA’s member groups.

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