Eurostat preliminary farm income figures for 2009

Eurostat has just published its first estimates for real agricultural income per worker in 2009. For the EU27, the figure is down 12.2% on the 2008 figure, but with considerable variation across countries, from -35.6% in Hungary to +14.3% in the UK. While differences in commodity price trends and variations in commodity composition across countries will account for much of the variation, other factors include the further phasing in of direct payments (in the NMS) and currency fluctuations against the euro (important in explaining the UK trend).

Eurostat also publishes a comparison of trends since 2005. Choosing any one year as a base is always problematic, given the possibility that the base year is an untypical year.

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The job nobody wanted

Over at the excellent farmpolicy.com Roger Waite, editor of Agra Facts, has posted a thorough account of the appointment of the new EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos. He says that while Romania had sought the powerful position, it was really a case of appointment by default:

I tend to feel that Barroso was left with no other option, as no one was willing to put forward a good candidate – and that he was the only suitable candidate from among the nominees.

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A new decade, a new CAP

Five leading European farming and environmental NGOs, who between them boast several million members, have jointly published a blueprint for a new Common Agricultural Policy. In an unusual and very modern step, they have published a draft proposal and opened it for consultation. They will produce a final version in 2010. The proposal, which runs to 28 pages, is for a radical reorientation of the CAP away from a productivist and income support model towards a ‘public money for public goods’ ethos.

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Paris Declaration on the Common Agricultural Policy

You can read here the agreed communiqué from the 22 countries which were invited by France to discuss the future of the CAP in Paris yesterday. The meeting itself was surrounded by some controversy given that 5 member states (UK, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Malta) were not originally invited, although the UK did send along a civil servant as an observer. The French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire talked at length about the objectives of the meeting in an extensive interview with Le Monde.

The countries attending were those which had supported the call by France and Germany for stronger measures to support dairy farmers in October this year.

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Scotland 'on message' on farm subsidies

Scotland is far more in tune with current thinking on farm subsidies in mainland Europe than England and Wales, claims Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead. Addressing farmers at a Christmas Carcass competition in Inverurie, Mr Lochhead brought them glad tidings about the deep divide in agriculture policies on the two sides of the border. ‘My opinion on CAP reform is very different from DEFRA’s view that all direct subsidies should be removed and we should rely on a free market. Scotland should not go down that route and our thinking is much closer to the mainstream of Europe which is that the pendulum is swinging back towards support for active agriculture.’

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Scotland ‘on message’ on farm subsidies

Scotland is far more in tune with current thinking on farm subsidies in mainland Europe than England and Wales, claims Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead. Addressing farmers at a Christmas Carcass competition in Inverurie, Mr Lochhead brought them glad tidings about the deep divide in agriculture policies on the two sides of the border. ‘My opinion on CAP reform is very different from DEFRA’s view that all direct subsidies should be removed and we should rely on a free market. Scotland should not go down that route and our thinking is much closer to the mainstream of Europe which is that the pendulum is swinging back towards support for active agriculture.’

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New book reveals extent of 'box shifting'

When the negotiators in the Uruguay Round of the GATT introduced the concept of the ‘green box’ – farm support measures that are minimally or non-trade distorting and therefore exempt from any limits – few would have foreseen that within 15 years, the bulk of farm support in the developed world would be in the green box. A new book “Agricultural Subsidies in the WTO Green Box: Ensuring Coherence with Sustainable Development Goals”, published by Cambridge University Press, shows the extent to which farm support has been shifted out of more traditional, trade distorting measures and into the green box. It addresses the vexed question of whether green box supports are really as trade-neutral and environmentally beneficial as they are claimed to be.

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New book reveals extent of ‘box shifting’

When the negotiators in the Uruguay Round of the GATT introduced the concept of the ‘green box’ – farm support measures that are minimally or non-trade distorting and therefore exempt from any limits – few would have foreseen that within 15 years, the bulk of farm support in the developed world would be in the green box. A new book “Agricultural Subsidies in the WTO Green Box: Ensuring Coherence with Sustainable Development Goals”, published by Cambridge University Press, shows the extent to which farm support has been shifted out of more traditional, trade distorting measures and into the green box. It addresses the vexed question of whether green box supports are really as trade-neutral and environmentally beneficial as they are claimed to be.

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Comprehensive market price data from DG Agri

Following the recent interest in food price developments, DG AGRI has now released long-term monthly price data for a wide range of farm and first-stage processed products from its AGRIVIEW database. AGRIVIEW is a data warehouse providing a common repository for integrated data for DG AGRI which is normally only available to internal Commission analysts. For example, it includes financial information, market prices, tariff data, and data on export refunds. The market price data on a monthly basis from January 1997 until the most recent date, for both the EU on average and for individual member states, is now available for download as a 7MB Excel file from the DG AGRI website.

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Andris Piebalgs for Agriculture Commissioner?

With the CAP among the EU’s oldest and biggest policies, it’s something of a surprise that no country has nominated an ‘agriculture specialist’ for the commission. This makes for a challenge to select an able successor to Mariann Fischer Boel, who came to the post having served as Farms Minister in Denmark as well as having farming background herself. In Brussels it seems as if the front-runner is the current Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs of Latvia.

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