New Danish farms minister in subsidy storm

Yesterday’s reshuffle of the Danish government included the appointment of a new minister for agriculture: Henrik Høegh. Less than a day into his new job, he is becoming embroiled in a political row over a perceived conflict of interest. The reason? Mr Høegh is a farmer who receives more than sixty thousand euro a year in EU farm subsidies.

Data on farm subsidies shows that since 2000, Mr Høegh has benefited from the CAP to the tune of 604,787 euros over the nine years from 2000 to 2008. Farm subsidies appear to be something of a Høegh family business: it seems his son and daughter are also significant recipients.

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CAP Reform Conversations: Paolo De Castro MEP

In the first of a series of video conversations with leading figures in the debate over the future of the CAP, Jack Thurston talks to Paolo De Castro MEP, chair of the parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and a former two-term Italian agriculture minister and professor of agricultural economics.

De Castro explains that he has always regarded himself as a CAP reformer and sets out his vision for a reshaping of the EU’s farm subsidy system. He advocates a shift to a basic flat rate aid payment to farmers, plus additional funds to be allocated at the discretion of member states.

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NMS farm ministers flex their muscles

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service carries a useful report of the meeting in Warsaw on 3 February last attended by the agricultural ministers from the new Member States which concluded with a declaration on the future of the CAP after 2013. Its a fairly uncompromising defence of a large agricultural budget after 2013. The USDA notes that not only are the NMS sore about the unequal distribution of direct payments, but they are rapidly losing ground in the production of primary agricultural commodities. Poland, for example, now imports more pork than it exports, while meat and dairy exports from West to East have surged.

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CAP support levels reach new high

CAP subsidies as reported to the WTO reached a ten-year high of over €90 billion in the 2006/07 marketing year, but conveniently most of them have been parked in the allegedly non trade distorting green box, something that has provoked disquiet in Geneva. The EU notified €90.7 billion of support to the global trade body for 2006/2007 – up from €75.6 billion in 2002, when support was at its lowest in the last fifteen years.

More from ICTSD.

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Another day, another declaration

Hot on the heels of the joint declaration by Birdlife International and the European Landowners Association and the declaration of 23 European agricultural economists comes the European Food Declaration (PDF).

The European Food Declaration diagnoses the problems of Europe’s food and farming system in the following way:

– dependence on under-priced fossil fuels
– failure to recognise the limitations of water and land resources
– promotion of unhealthy diets high in calories, fat and salt, and low in fruit, vegetables and
grains
– domination by transnational corporations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

The declaration argues that:

“All people should have access to healthy, safe, and nutritious food.

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Does the CAP fit?

The biggest driver for further reform of the CAP is budgetary. At a time when most governments are struggling with vast budget deficits, public expenditure is under pressure as never before. Policy-makers are looking for ways to trim budgets, to get better value for public money and to ensure that budgets are aligned with their most pressing policy priorities. Several years ago the commission initiated a ‘fundamental’ review of the EU budget and it is expected that this will set the scene for the debate over the EU’s finances from 2014 onwards. The views of member states are critical, as they hold the EU’s purse strings.

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Le Monde debates the CAP

Last Friday, Le Monde, the leading French daily newspaper, devoted a double-page spread on its comment pages to the common agricultural policy. Along with José Bové, Michiel A. Keyzer and Jean-Christophe Bureau I was invited to contribute an article to the debate. You can read it in French on the Le Monde website. I’ve posted an English version below.

Farming should protect Europe’s environmental resources not use them up

In 2009, farm incomes fell across the whole of the EU, not least in France. Dairy farms have been hardest hit with average prices down twenty per cent. This is despite the EU spending 55 billion euro on the common agricultural policy, one of whose aims is to ensure farmers a fair standard of living.

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