UK farm unions call for a common EU agriculture policy

The four main farm unions of the United Kingdom today unveiled a joint manifesto aimed at the June elections to the European Parliament. The slim, 8 page document sets out a UK farmers’ agenda on a range of issues of concern. While the manifesto makes the case for lighter touch regulation of farming (e.g. on pesticides, nitrates, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation and health issues like BSE) it calls for more powerful regulation of the food chain to defend farmers incomes. When it comes to the future of the CAP it seems that the major concern is to prevent the ‘re-nationalisation’ of the policy.

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Fischer Boel defends export dumping

Farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has reiterated the EU’s commitment to phase out all export subsidies by 2013, but in the meantime has insisted on their use to defend EU market share. Responding to concerns that the dairy export refunds, reintroduced in January, mean ‘dumping’ cheap produce on developing countries, Fischer Boel said that the EU cannot risk losing its market share to other major exporters.

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Fischer Boel defends export dumping

Farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has reiterated the EU’s commitment to phase out all export subsidies by 2013, but in the meantime has insisted on their use to defend EU market share. Responding to concerns that the dairy export refunds, reintroduced in January, mean ‘dumping’ cheap produce on developing countries, Fischer Boel said that the EU cannot risk losing its market share to other major exporters.

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Let's get concrete and controversial!

Recently, I attended a conference of the British Land Use Policy Group (LUPG) on ‘Securing our Common Future through Environmentally Sustainable Land Management – Vision for the Future of the CAP post 2013’. The first speaker noted that ‘the challenge of the next months is to identify the questions for CAP reform’. Toward the end, a commentator from the floor summarized the discussion: ‘We had a lot of questions and not many answers.’ Should we really place ourselves at such an early, exploratory stage where we struggle to grasp the main dimensions of the problems, at best determine broad directions for reform?

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Let’s get concrete and controversial!

Recently, I attended a conference of the British Land Use Policy Group (LUPG) on ‘Securing our Common Future through Environmentally Sustainable Land Management – Vision for the Future of the CAP post 2013’. The first speaker noted that ‘the challenge of the next months is to identify the questions for CAP reform’. Toward the end, a commentator from the floor summarized the discussion: ‘We had a lot of questions and not many answers.’ Should we really place ourselves at such an early, exploratory stage where we struggle to grasp the main dimensions of the problems, at best determine broad directions for reform?

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Re-education for Commission officials

On a visit to China a few years ago I met an elderly professor who had been sent with his students to the countryside during the Maoist period for ‘re-education’ by the peasants. He struck a deal with the local peasants that allowed them to work on their books two days a week. Now farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, a large-scale farmer with her husband in Denmark, has decided that Commission officials in DG Agri need re-education. She considers that they are too detached from farmers and don’t understand their problems.

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A chorus of despair

Earlier this week I was invited to take part in a round table discussion, as part of a major conference on the future of the CAP, organised by Birdlife/SEO and WWF. The conference began with a joint presentation by SEO and WWF of an interesting new proposal for CAP reform in Spain. The proposal envisages an end to Pillar 1 by 2019 and the transfer of all CAP funds to an environmental and rural policy oriented around the principle of ‘public money for public goods’, by which is meant those environmental ‘services’ provided by farmers, particularly in areas of high nature value (HNV) farming such as upland pastures and native grasslands.

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