The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) has long been a consistent critic of the CAP. In its latest report The European Unionâ€™s Agricultural Policy: A Stocktake of Reforms it acknowledges the EUâ€™s reform efforts to date, but highlights areas where more needs to be done. Its main conclusion is that, while the EU has been changing the form of its agricultural support policies toward â€˜decoupledâ€™ payments, very little has been done to reduce the level of support. In particular, substantial support and protection have been retained through tariffs and tariff quotas, and member states have retained some ‘coupledâ€™ payments.
DG Agri published its annual Prospects for Agricultural Markets and Income in the EU for the period 2007 through 2014 at the end of July. In this post I discuss the Commissionâ€™s latest view on the outlook for the EU sugar market. The EUâ€™s sugar market reform agreed in November 2005 has been less than a thundering success in making progress towards its objective of reducing domestic production by 6 mio tonnes of white sugar annually. White sugar stocks remain high, and success in maintaining market balance through 2014 will depend on the quantity of imports realised under the EBA (Everything But Arms) scheme and the future take up of restructuring aid.
In a previous post, I discussed the significance of the current buoyant markets for dairy products for the likely success in pursuing further reform of the EU dairy regime. The insight that world market conditions may influence the trajectory of CAP reform can also be extended to other CAP regimes. Producers have not been as optimistic regarding long-run price trends for agricultural commodities for many years. Food demand prospects appear bright, driven by population growth and rising incomes in many emerging markets. Non-food demand, particularly for biofuels, is a further positive driver. Many believe that, after many false dawns, we really are on the cusp of reversing the long-run decline in real agricultural prices since the Second World War and entering a Malthusian world.
The dependence of Irish farm incomes on the Single Farm Payment and other direct payments was starkly revealed by the publication of the 2006 results of the annual National Farm Survey (NFS) this week. Fully 98% of Family Farm Income (FFI) on Irish farms in 2006 was derived from the Single Farm Payment and other direct payments; only 2% represented the return from the market, the lowest recorded since the Survey commenced. Market FFI per farm in 2006 was only €334. In 2004, 86% of Family Farm Income came from direct payments and subsidies, and 14% from the market place.
A particular milestone in the CAP was passed last month when the European Commission set export refunds on dairy products to zero for the first time ever in the management of the EU dairy regime. This reflects the extraordinary jump in world market prices for milk products in the past twelve months, with prices for skim milk powder more than doubling in US dollar terms.
Source: USDA Dairy: World Markets and Trade July 2007
Ariel Brunner in a recent post lamented the fact that the EU has proposed to set the rate of compulsory set-aside to 0% for the 2008 harvest without putting in place alternative measures to secure the environmental benefits which set-aside land provides. The reason why the decision only concerns autumn 2007 and spring 2008 sowings is that a decision to eliminate set-aside can only be done in the context of a global review of arable crops policy. This will be undertaken as part of the CAP Health Check, when the Commission has promised an analysis on how and by which means we can address the positive environmental side effects of set aside.
The Irish Farmers’ Journal reports that the value of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) is not likely to be greatly eroded by “financial discipline” cuts in order to accommodate the payments to new Member States within the European Union. This is because more buoyant farm prices mean that there will be huge cuts in the cost of traditional market support measures, such as intervention and export subsidies, leaving sufficient money in the CAP budget to fund the SFP. Agra Europe forecasts that the cost of traditional support measures will fall by half by 2013, and that budget-related cuts in the SFP of no more than 2% will be necessary by 2013 to stay within the CAP budget ceiling.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Agricultural Change and Environment Observatory recently published a statistical analysis of the breakdown of the Single Farm Payment (SFP) in England, one of the four regions for the purposes of administering the SFP scheme in the UK. The report analyses 2005 payments, with some historical comparison with the distibution of payments in previous years. One of the findings is that average payment rates per hectare are related more to farm type than to farm size.Â Apart from the very smallest farm size group (holdings with betweenÂ 0 and 0.5 Standard Labour Requirements), the average payment per hectare for all remaining farm sizes varies minimally between Â£187 and Â£197/hectare.
Fellow blogger Wyn Grant presented a paper in Paris last month which presents a wide-ranging overview of the changes in CAP policy instruments since its inception to the present day. His basic thesis is that over time the instruments have changed much more than the objectives and that this does reflect a shift in the content of the CAP and its ultimate goals. He concludes that it is changes in CAP policy which have led to changes in policy instruments, although he does cite some examples where the introduction of new instruments, possibly by creating obvious anomalies, can spark off wider policy debates (trading SFP entitlements, voluntary modulation).