OECD research on the CAP

Agricultural ministers of the OECD met in late February 2010 – the first time since 1998 – and issued a communiqué that touches on everything and says close to nothing. For once, such an empty statement is perfectly fine. The OECD Secretariat doesn’t need its ministers in order to do an excellent job in providing intellectual guidance and hard data.

The flagship of OECD research is certainly the country-level analysis of agricultural policies, based on Producer and Consumer Support Estimates and enriched by a brief description of recent policy developments in the report on Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation 2009.

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12 March: Sarko steals the headlines

Quite a week for Nicolas Sarkozy, then.

After skipping the opening ceremony of the Salon d’Agriculture, the French president wrapped up the show by announcing that France is ready to accept farm budget cuts – but only if EU farmers are given more protection against imports.

Speaking at a debate on Saturday, Sarkozy said Paris would be “supple” about the budget but “rigid” in its demand that agricultural imports be subject to the same standards of production as those adhered to by EU farmers.

“I am ready to accept reducing the share of agricultural spending in the EU budget provided that we use community preference,” Sarkozy said, a reference to the high standard of environmental rules followed by EU producers

This, then, indicates a significant shift in thinking.

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The Socialist Revolution

1789: the people of Paris take the Bastille. 1848: republican upheaval all across Europe. 1917: the Communists take power in Russia. 2010: the European Socialists & Democrats declare that the CAP needs to be revolutionized. Admittedly, the S&D do not pretend to lay claim to quite such daring historical parallels – but there is no doubt that they make bold claims: the ‘one step at a time while maintaining the original philosophy’ approach of the 1992, 2000, 2003 and 2008/09 reforms has been ‘overly timid’. Explaining that progressives are those who anticipate and guide ambitious reform processes, whereas conservatives only tackle the issues when forced to do so by the emergence of crises or external constraints, they conclude that, ‘the reform of the CAP over the last 15 years has generally followed this second path.’

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Sarkozy offers a deal on CAP reform

President Sarkozy took farmers into his confidence in a recent speech at the Salon d’agriculture where he proposed a new direction in France’s position on CAP reform post 2013. Noting that there were farms in France where the share of subsidies equals the value of production, he declared that this does not make sense if the farmer is a producer. He criticised the policy approach of accepting compensation for reductions in prices because, some day, there is no longer sufficient funds to continue to pay for the subsidies.

Instead, he proposed to the other EU partners a deal whereby France would be flexible on the share of the next financial perspective going to agriculture provided that this was balanced by more rigorous Community preference which, implicitly would lead to a higher market return.

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5 March: The circus comes to town

The world’s largest food and farm show, France’s Salon d’Agriculture, is taking place in Paris this week.

Europe’s new agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos cut the ribbon — a first for an EU commissioner — after President Nicolas Sarkozy broke with tradition and skipped the opening ceremony. The French premier will wrap up proceedings on Sunday instead.

The event comes after a year in which French farming has suffered its worst crisis in decades. According to Reuters, it is a “chance for Europe’s top agricultural producer to convince the visiting public and foreign officials it is worth safeguarding a sector undermined by declining revenues.”

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