It should come as no surprise that the EU level farm union COPA-COGECA’s response to the Commission’s communication on the CAP health check is reminiscent of King Canute, trying to hold back the tide. What is very interesting, however, is that in important areas the response contains dissenting voices (or ‘reserves’) expressed by a handful of COPA-COGECA’s member groups.
In COPA-COGECA’s response to the Commission communication, three farm unions dissent from the opposition to upper limits on farm subsidy payments: Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori of Italy and Unión de Pequeños Agricultores y Ganaderos (UPA) and
(CIA) and Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG) both of Spain. Meanwhile, Coldiretti of Italy refuses to backing COPA-COGECA’s opposition to increased modulation of subsidy payments from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2.
Remember, the reason COPA-COGECA is so very reactionary and unimaginative is that it is ‘a union of unions’, and therefore has to adopt lowest common denominator positions in order to maintain the acquiescence of its members. But could its days be numbered? The cracks are already beginning to show. During the political jockeying over the Fischler reforms in 2002 and 2003 several farm unions that are nominally members of COPA-COGECA decided to run their own, quite distinctive, operations, in some cases arguing fully against the COPA-COGECA line.
There has always been a tension between the interests of small farmers and large farmers, between rich farmers and poor farmers, between livestock farmers and arable farmers, those in the north and those in the south and so on. COPA-COGECA has a tough job ahead of it to maintain the united front that has for so long been the hallmark of the powerful European farm lobby and one of the secrets of its success.