Bureaucracy, greed and vanity threaten EU plan to help world's poorest farmers

The European Commission has published its plans to divert up to a billion euros from CAP underspends to a new fund to help farmers in the developing world to increase productivity in the face of the world food crisis. Higher food prices have meant lower CAP expenditure on market measures such as intervention, storage and export refunds and the Commission has suggested redirecting parts of these savings to agricultural production in the third world. Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Development Commissioner Louis Michel and Farms Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel have all spoken enthusiastically about the idea, but there are growing rumblings of opposition, from both the Council and the Parliament, both of which will have to approve the plan if it is to become a reality.

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Bureaucracy, greed and vanity threaten EU plan to help world’s poorest farmers

The European Commission has published its plans to divert up to a billion euros from CAP underspends to a new fund to help farmers in the developing world to increase productivity in the face of the world food crisis. Higher food prices have meant lower CAP expenditure on market measures such as intervention, storage and export refunds and the Commission has suggested redirecting parts of these savings to agricultural production in the third world. Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Development Commissioner Louis Michel and Farms Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel have all spoken enthusiastically about the idea, but there are growing rumblings of opposition, from both the Council and the Parliament, both of which will have to approve the plan if it is to become a reality.

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The CAP's ambiguous face to the outside world

The description of a Fortress Europe has often been applied to the CAP. But just as the CAP has undergone significant internal reform since the first faltering steps under Commissioner MacSharry in 1992, there have also been substantial changes to the CAP’s external trade regime. The EU still maintains high tariffs on specific agricultural imports, but in fact the majority of the EU’s agricultural imports (including here fish as well as highly processed products like beverages and tobacco products) enter the EU duty-free, either because the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff is zero, or because the EU has granted duty-free preferential access.

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The CAP’s ambiguous face to the outside world

The description of a Fortress Europe has often been applied to the CAP. But just as the CAP has undergone significant internal reform since the first faltering steps under Commissioner MacSharry in 1992, there have also been substantial changes to the CAP’s external trade regime. The EU still maintains high tariffs on specific agricultural imports, but in fact the majority of the EU’s agricultural imports (including here fish as well as highly processed products like beverages and tobacco products) enter the EU duty-free, either because the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff is zero, or because the EU has granted duty-free preferential access.

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European Parliament weighs in on health check

On Monday 14 July the European Parliament agriculture committee will discuss its response to the Commission’s legislative proposals for the CAP health check. The committee’s rapporteur is Luis Capoulos Santos, a Portuguese socialist MEP and former Portuguese Minister for Agriculture. His working document, suggests a number of changes to the Commission proposals, notably a hard ceiling of 500,000 euros on CAP payments to individuals, in addition to a ‘progressive modulation’ that would see payments above 100,000 euros top-sliced to provide additional funding for the EU’s farmland conservation and rural policies.

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+++New WTO modalities paper is published+++

Full details at the WTO’s website. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said:

“These revised texts set the stage for a decisive moment in the Doha round. Ministers and other senior officials will soon arrive for intensive negotiations the week of 21 July. They need negotiating documents which are clear and precise as they consider the complex issues of agriculture and industrial goods trade. These texts go a very long way in that direction. These negotiations have been long and tough but the prize awaiting us should we reach agreement is worth the effort. A deal to open trade in agriculture and goods means more growth, better prospects for development and a more stable and predictable trading system.

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French press for EU summit on CAP

French farm leaders have asked President Sarkozy to organise a Special Summit of EU heads of government on ‘EU ambitions for the agriculture and agri-food sectors.’ Perhaps the word ‘EU’ should be replaced by ‘French’.

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US farmers want out of conservation, environmentalists resist

The current high prices for arable crops mean that farmers in the US and Europe are reconsidering whether putting their land into government-financed conservation schemes is such a good idea financially. The EU is well on the way to releasing all its set aside land back into production, and in the US Congress is considering whether to allow farmers to leave long term conservation contracts without facing any penalties.

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New CAP spending figures show raw deal for new member states

New official figures on how the the €53.5 billion of EU expenditure on the Common Agricultural Policy was distributed in 2007 show just how raw a deal the new member states are getting under Pillar One of the CAP, which still accounts for four fifths of the total CAP budget.

The figures are presented in a novel interactive data visualisation below (you may like to play around with the settings for Bubble Size, Label and Colour.

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EU wrong to get involved in provision of free fruit and vegetables

Yesterday, the Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner announced an EU-wide scheme to provide free fruit and vegetables to school children between the ages of 6 and 10. The purpose of the scheme is to encourage more healthy eating habits among children as a contribution to the campaign to fight the obesity epidemic which is storing up very large health costs for European countries in the future.

While the objectives of the scheme are entirely laudable and should be supported, I strongly question what business the EU has getting involved in promoting a School Fruit Scheme (although the scheme also covers vegetables, it seems to be referred to as a fruit scheme – vegetables were always the poor relation!).

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