Wyn Grant

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Recent blog posts written by Wyn Grant

How can direct payments be justified after 2013?

Former OECD ag supremo demolishes the arguments.

CAP support levels reach new high

CAP subsidies as reported to the WTO reached the highest level in ten years in 2006/07 at over €90 billion.

The NFU perspective on the future of the CAP

Britain’s National Farmers’ Union is noted for its strategic, long-term view of agricultural issues. Its officials have a sophsiticated, well informed view of developments and it was therefore interesting to read an interview in the latest edition of Farmers Weekly with the NFU’s head of economics and international affairs, Tom Hind. He was at one time acting head of the NFU’s office in Brussels. Not surprisingly, he takes the NFU line that farmers need to continue to receive the single farm payment (SFP) to give them a degree of income stability, especially faced with volatile markets.

Scotland ‘on message’ on farm subsidies

Scotland is far more in tune with current thinking on farm subsidies in mainland Europe than England and Wales, claims Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead. Addressing farmers at a Christmas Carcass competition in Inverurie, Mr Lochhead brought them glad tidings about the deep divide in agriculture policies on the two sides of the border. [...]

G-21 an anti-reform bloc?

At various times in the history of the CAP, member states have formed informal groupings to address particular issues, e.g., ‘the Aachen Five’ and the agri-monetary system. The G-21, in effect led by France, is a much larger grouping which constitutes a qualified majority in the Council. It become the G-21 rather than the G-20 [...]

Budget directorate wants to cut CAP

Leaked copies of a document from the European Commission’s budget directorate reveal an aspiration to substantially cut agriculture’s share of the EU budget from 2013 onwards.

Dairy sector measures do not set pulses racing

4000 dairy farmers with 900 tractors demonstrated outside an EU agricultural ministers meeting in Luxembourg yesterday calling for more aid for the sector. Inside, ministers faced a Franco-German memorandum backed by 20 member states with a series of demands for market distorting measures. In the event the concessions the Commission made are probably the least [...]

UK watchdog slams farm payments mess

In one of its most critical ever reports, the National Audit Office has slammed the way in which the Rural Payments Agency has administered Single Farm Payments to farmers. It accused the agency of showing ‘scant regard to protecting public money’. The agency has wasted around £700m, the capital equivalent of building thirty secondary schools.

Who will be next agriculture commissioner?

The next agricultural commissioner will have the chance to shape the future development of the CAP. So who will it be?

Back to butter mountains?

It’s a familar scenario: the milk price falls; farmers come out to the street; and the Commission starts to panic. Following a ‘milk strike’ across Europe, an emergency meeting is to be held by farm ministers on October 5th. Nineteen member states have signalled support for a Franco-German initiative for an aid package for dairy [...]

New EP Ag committee line up

With co-decision on agricultural issues likely to come into force from next year, the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has assumed a new importance and there was plenty of competition for places. However, one unasnwered question is whether the Budget Committee will have a stronger influence on plenary voting patterns than the Ag committee.

Big Phil Lays It On The Line

Vaasa, Finland: Philip Lowe is a leading figure in the rural studies community in the UK and he issues a stark warning about the so-called ‘new productivism’ in an interview that was issued to delegates at the ESRS Congress where he gave the opening plenary.

UK wheat can compete – so does it need subsidies?

Russia and Romania may be two of the cheapest places in the world to produce wheat, but the UK is only a little way behind. Releasing the result of its Global Cost of Production Challenge, Bidwells Agriculture head of research Carl Atkin, said that despite the higher unit price of inputs in the UK, cost [...]

The debate on the post-2013 CAP

The debate on the future of the CAP after 2013 has now started following the informal Farm Council in the Czech Republic earlier this month. Those who want to influence the debate have about twelve months before the Commission publishes a Communication (effectively a White Paper) on future policy in the summer/early autumn of next [...]

EU could do better on environmental farming

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money intended for environmental projects is instead being used to prop up damaging farmning practices across Europe, according to a report Could Do Better compiled for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds by Birdlife International. The report highlights some of the positive work being done in EU member [...]

Buckwell: blanket subsidies to continue after 2020

Pillar 1 subsidies are likely to continue after 2020, forecast Professor Allan Buckwell, the Policy Director of the Country Land and Business Association, in an interesting talk at the President’s Seminar of the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) in London yesterday.

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 [...]

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 [...]

Why CAP reform happened

The latest Journal of Common Market Studies (vol.47, 2, March 2009) contains an important article exploring the determinants of CAP reform. It is written by Alan Swinbank, a distinguished agricultural economist and a leading proponent of reform and Arlindo Cunha who was chair of the Agriculture Council in 1992 at the time of the MacSharry [...]

UK Tories on a crooked path to protectionism?

I realise that opposition politicians have to say all things to all persons and jump on any bandgwagon that’s going on, but I must say that I found an interview with Nick Herbert, the shadow Defra secretary, in Farmers Weekly a bit disappointing. It remains to be seen whether the MP for Arundel and South [...]

Spending money to pay it out

One of the many drawbacks of the CAP is that it costs a lot of money to run which reduces the sums that reach the supposed beneficiaries. It has now emerged in response to a parliamentary question that each claim for the Single Farm Payment (SFP), irrespective of its value costs £742 to process. Junior [...]

Vision for the future of the CAP

The influential Land Use Policy Group will be launching their vision for the future of the CAP after 2013 in Brussels on March 30th. This will be an important event in the long-term effort to clarify thinking about future policy so that it delivers benefits to the environment and rural communities.

Can the old policy instruments have any effect?

The resort to intervention buying and export refunds in the dairy sector has been predictably bad PR for the EU, especially in the southern hemisphere. But a more fundamental question is, can these tired old policy instruments work any magic in a deep economic crisis?

Return of the butter mountain

It was the recession of the 1930s that ushered in agricultural protectionism and subsidies, not least in the United States. Now the European Union has reverted to two of its old favourite policy instruments: intervention buying and export subsidies in the dairy sector just when we thought we had seen the last of them. Stocks [...]

Budget pressure on CAP

With the Health Check out of the way, it looks as if the medium-term future of the CAP is going to be strongly influenced by discussions of how the EU budget should be spent. This always raises the awkward question of the opportunity cost of spending large sums of money on subsidising farmers.

Dairy quota row highlights industry divisions

Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel’s proposal for five annual dairy quota increases of 1 per cent each, adopted unchanged by farm ministers, is under attack from two sides. The Commission believes that this is a sure sign that it has negotiated a fair middle path through a morass of conflicting objectives. A less charitable interpretation would [...]

The Estonian vision

A charming young Estonian woman greeted me at the European Parliament yesterday when I went to give evidence to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (of which more in due course). Of broader significance Estonia is probably the only new member state with a clear concept of how the CAP should evolve. This is outlined [...]

The methane menace and hamburgers

A paper on the contribution to climate change of livestock methane emissions has found that the problem is likely to get worse as global demand for meat and dairy products increases. Dr Andy Thorpe, an economist at Portsmouth University, found that a single herd of 200 cows can produce annual emissions of methane roughly equivalent [...]

Auditors’ report makes for sobering reading

The very complexity of the CAP opens it to scams of various kinds. These may not be fraudulent in the criminal sense of the term (although such instances have occurred) but they do represent a use of loopholes to divert public money to line the pockets of individuals.

Buckwell expresses doubts about SFP and pillars

Agra Focus has been conducting a series of interviews on EU farm policy and one of the longest and most interesting to date is with Allan Buckwell. He is currently policy director with the (England and Wales) Country and Land Business Association, but is also chair of the policy committee run by the European Landowners [...]

French reform paper: An exercise in decoding

France has produced a paper on the future of the CAP which is designed to stimulate discussion at the informal farm council to be held there in the Rhone-Alps region on 21-23 September. The paper is very vague, no doubt deliberately so, and interpreting has to be an exercise in decoding.

French press for EU summit on CAP

French farm leaders have asked President Sarkozy to organise a Special Summit of EU heads of government on ‘EU ambitions for the agriculture and agri-food sectors.’ Perhaps the word ‘EU’ should be replaced by ‘French’.

Animal welfare dilemmas

One of the advances made when Franz Fischler was farm commissioner was to recognise farm animals as sentient beings rather than agricultural products. This provided a basis for treating animal welfare as one of the planks of multifunctionality. However, a vet who is an animal welfare expert suggested in a talk (under Chatham House rules) [...]

GM feed ban crisis

A row over the banning of GM feed by British supermarkets raises wider issues about how far new technology can be used to solve problems of world food shortage. There have been calls for a second ‘green revolution’, but the first green revolution was based on intensive use of fertilisers and irrigation. Fertilisers are rocketing [...]

Rethinking Less Favoured Areas

The Less Favoured Areas directive is one of the few examples of British influence on the design of the CAP. It was originally conceived as the Mountain Areas Directive with France pressing for a definition that would have excluded Britain’s hills and uplands. But the British emphasis on latitude rather than altitude won the day [...]

Farm land price boom

The cost of agricultural holdings across the EU has risen to record levels. However, this is not entirely good news for farmers. It makes it even harder for those who do not inherit to enter the industry, while only farmers wanting to retire can cash in. Tenant farmers face higher prices making life more difficult [...]

Stefan speaks out

Before he joined OECD, I would run into agricultural economist Stefan Tangermann from time to time at conferences. I was always impressed by his contributions so it is interesting to read his interview with Agra Focus, one of the latest in an excellent series. In a long interview, he had many interesting points to make [...]

Food security fears mount

Fears of unrest are increasing in developing countries as shortages develop of staple foods or prices increase substantially. Governments have cut import tariffs to cope with the problem, but hoarding to take advantage of future price rises has exacerbated the difficulties being encountered.

The milk quota mess

As the debate goes on in the EU about whether milk quotas can be increased by 2 per cent as part of the soft landing when they are eventually abolished in 2015, it is an opportunity to reflect how milk quotas have affected the UK dairy industry. They were introduced in 1984 to ease the [...]

Fischler speaks out

I have recently been working with others on an edited collection to be brought out from the Centre for Policy Studies in Brussels which re-visits the Fischler reforms of the CAP. The discussions held in relation to the book, which involved some people who knew Fischler’s work well, confirmed my view that he was someone [...]

Getting decisions on the Health Check

With 27 member states the whole negotiating process in the Farm Council has become a lot more difficult, not that it was ever easy. Another complication is that fisheries matters are also dealt with in the Farm Council and this means that the December meeting is the scene for an inevitable battle between fisheries ministers [...]

Global food prices face a new surge

In Chicago wheat and rice prices for delivery in March 2008 have jumped to an all-time high, soyabean prices are at a 34-year high and corn prices at a 11-year peak. The agricultural commodities price rises are the result of high demand, poor harvests and low stockpiles of food.

Meat: facing the dilemmas

The excellent Food Ethics published by the Food Ethics Council has devoted its latest issue to this theme. You can read excerpts online here. There are a lot of issues related to increasing meat consumption: climate change; health issues; water scarcity and biodiversity loss from clearing forests to make way for pasture and feed production; [...]

The environmental impact of ending set aside

Idling land resources through set aside never made a lot of economic sense and was largely a way of dealing with over production encouraged by the old style CAP. However, many environmentalists felt that set aside encouraged biodiversity. This was particularly the case for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which with [...]

Capping farm subsidies is on the agenda again

Leaks from Brussels suggest that capping Single Farm Payments is on the agenda for the forthcoming Health Check. This was mooted at the time of the last reform and defeated by opposition from Britain and Germany who would have lost out the most.

Fischer Boel seduced by food security rhetoric

Experts on agricultural policy are often asked why the ‘farm lobby’ has been so successful although, of course, at EU level its influence has declined over time. In part this has been because it has been losing the debate and has often shown insufficient flexibility in responding to new framings of issues.

EU farmers need to save water

European agriculture should face the same ‘user pays’ principle as other EU consumers of water in the coming year in order to address the growing problem of water scarcity, according to a Commission Communication. The report by the Environment DG recognises that at least 20 per cent and maybe 40 per cent of water is [...]

Puzzle over co-decision

It is far from clear how agricultural issues will be dealt with under co-decision once the reform treaty is enacted. Under current rules, most CAP dossiers are decided under the ‘consultation’ procedure, where the Council must wait for an EP opinion, but has no obligation to incorporate EP amendments into the final text.

Glimmer of hope over Doha

International trade negotiations have been the most effective driver of CAP reform for over fiften years. I haven’t commented on progress in the Doha Round for some time because prospects have looked so bleak since the collapse of the G-4 talks at Potsdam. But there does seem to be a glimmer of hope.

The dairy paradox

British dairy farmers are leaving the industry in large numbers, but world milk and milk product prices are heading upwards fast. How can one explain this paradox? The simple answer is, of course, that the key UK liquid milk market is largely insulated from world market factors.