Poll Shock: Europe loves the CAP!

Every so often DG Agriculture commissions an opinion poll to find out how much European citizens love the common agricultural policy. As a democractic exercise it is somewhat reminiscent of elections in the former German Democratic Republic (99 percent for the communists!). The result of these ‘Eurobarometer’ surveys, which are carried out by TNS Opinion, a reputable polling company, is never in doubt: European citizens love the CAP a lot.

Among the findings of the recently released poll are the following:

  • Nine out of ten of Europeans regard agriculture and rural areas as important for the future. I’m rather curious about the one in ten who don’t.
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EP own-initiative report on the post-2013 CAP

The Rapporteur of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (ComAgri), George Lyon, has presented his take on the post-2013 CAP. Once the document has been discussed and amended by ComAgri, it will be voted upon first in ComAgri (June) and then in the EP plenary (July).

The starting point of the draft already chills expectations: “The Common Agricultural Policy has been largely successful in fulfilling the objectives it was set out to accomplish so far.”

Three groups of objectives are identified. 1) Supporting economic needs – including an EU agriculture competitive on world markets, EU food security in an unstable world context, and the valuable contribution EU agriculture and the downstream agri-food sector make to EU growth and employment.

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Sarkozy and Cameron on collision course?

David Cameron, leader of a British Conservative Party that is well ahead in the opinion polls just weeks ahead of a General Election, has already ruffled feathers across La Manche, with reported jibes about the diminutive stature of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is reeling from personal life scandals and a drubbing in regional elections. The remarks provoked a reaction from Paris, which accused the British Opposion leader of lacking respect for the French Head of State.

Such a trifling spat may be just the start of a tricky Anglo-French relationship over the future of EU budget, in particular the €60 billion common agricultural policy and Britain’s special budget rebate.

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CAP Reform Conversations: Ariel Brunner, BirdLife International

In the second in a series of in-depth conversations with leading figures in the debate on the future of the European Union’s common agricultural policy, Jack Thurston speaks with Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at BirdLife International.

BirdLife International is “a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. BirdLife Partners operate in over one hundred countries and territories worldwide.”

Anyone who has been in and around Brussels policy circles over the past few years will know that Ariel Brunner is among the most knowledgeable and persuasive advocates for radical reform of the CAP.

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Voters punish Sarkozy, Le Maire stays on

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and voters expressed their dissatisfaction with his centre-right UMP party in regional elections yesterday. A resurgent Socialist-led opposition alliance took 52% of the vote and the UMP just 35%, squeezed in sevearl contests by the far-right National Front, which scored 9.4% of the national vote but took more than 22% in its two core regions in the north and south. Opposition candidates won in 21 of France’s 22 mainland regions.

Among the losers was French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire (pictured, right), who was rejected by voters of Normandy, where he was standing for election as Regional President.

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How can direct payments be justified after 2013?

This is the question that former OECD trade and agriculture supremo Stefan Tangermann poses in a recent issue of Agra Europe. In effect the answer that the agricultural economist gives is that they can’t be, although he is too canny to say that in so many words. But he takes each argument for the SFP in turn and demolishes it.
He points out that direct payments make up nearly three-quarters of EU expenditure on the CAP, equivalent to about one third of the Union’s total budget. The argument that they are compensation for earlier reforms can no longer be used to justify their continuation.

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How can direct payments be justified after 2013?

This is the question that former OECD trade and agriculture supremo Stefan Tangermann poses in a recent issue of Agra Europe. In effect the answer that the agricultural economist gives is that they can’t be, although he is too canny to say that in so many words. But he takes each argument for the SFP in turn and demolishes it.

He points out that direct payments make up nearly three-quarters of EU expenditure on the CAP, equivalent to about one third of the Union’s total budget. The argument that they are compensation for earlier reforms can no longer be used to justify their continuation.

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Crystal ball gazing: Scenar II study on the effects of CAP reform

A new economic modelling study commissioned by DG Agriculture shows that many of the core claims made for the CAP are highly misleading, or downright wrong. The Scenar 2020 II study shows that if the subsidies, tariffs, intervention prices and quotas of the CAP were abolished and replaced with a free market, European overall agri-food production would be almost unchanged. This finding directly contradicts the argument that the CAP is an essential policy for ensuring that Europe remains a global agricultural powerhouse and ensuring European citizens have access to a reliable supply of affordable food.

The big picture message is that farming is subject to a range of economic, technological and demographic pressures that far outweigh the effects of agriculture policy, athough there are some exceptions.

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22 March: Hey, big spender

Greece’s woe continues.

On Tuesday last week, the European Commission said 20 member states must pay back a total of €346.5 million in “unduly spent” farm subsidies. Member states failed to apply proper financial controls and permitted ineligible expenditures.

Greece and Poland account for more than half that sum.

Cash-strapped Athens must pay back €132.6 million – most of which went to cotton farmers who were “overshooting” quotas. Brussels also identified “severe and persistent weaknesses” in Greece’s rural development measures.

Meanwhile, the commission will seek to claw back €92 million from Poland for “acceptance of ineligible land for payments” and “insufficient” checks in regions with high error rates.

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DG Agri study: Don’t be afraid of liberalization

Farm interests routinely threaten that any reduction in support will provoke a slump in production, endangering EU food security, and threatening massive land abandonment to the detriment of rural life and biodiversity. The findings of the Scenar 2020-II – Update of scenario study on agriculture and the rural world, commissioned by DG Agri, strongly contradict such panicmongering about the looming end of EU agriculture.

The study looks at three scenarios. The reference case assumes a 20% (nominal) CAP budget reduction, reduced intervention stocks, full decoupling, a 30% direct payment reduction, a 105% increase for the second pillar, and a moderate Doha agreement (based on the Falconer paper, including the elimination of export subsidies).

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