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Fischer Boel: one vision, two steps

Speaking at the annual conference of the National Farmers’ Union, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel set out her priorities for next year’s CAP ‘health check’. She described her approach as ‘one vision, two steps’, the first step being the health check and the second step being the EU budget review scheduled for 2008/09. It will be very interesting to see how successful she will be in keeping these two steps separate, as the sheer size of the CAP in relation to the rest of the EU budget (in 2005 it was a shade under 50%) makes it impossible to have any meaningful budget discussions without addressing the future of the CAP.

As for the health check itself, she gave her support to the following:

– More decoupling, particularly in those member states like France, Spain and Greece that have retained as much production-linked support as was possible under the rules.
– Abolition of set aside as it makes no sense in an era of decoupled payments.
– Raising the level of compulsory modulation, though she said she was a firm opponent of voluntary modulation.
– Excluding farms of less than 0.3 hectares from the subsidy system. She said that the CAP did not exist to “support the goat in the garden”.
– A strong hint that milk quotas are unlikely to persist beyond the current expiration date of 2015.

Looking ahead to the CAP beyond 2013 and the budget review of 2008/09 she said that payments to farmers would likely remain, though full decoupling would be necessary. In the Doha Development Agenda talks at the WTO, the EU has already pledged to end agricultural export subsidies by 2013 and Fischer Boel said that there will be a hard look at whether other market interventions should be phased out as well.

Read her speech in full.

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