Commission announces relaxation of cross compliance system

The Agriculture Commission has today announced a series of changes to the cross compliance system under which European farm subsidy payments are made conditional on farmers meeting basic rules relating to farm management and environmental conservation. The thrust of the changes is to streamline the system, make it less onerous for farmers and for the government authorities charged with inspecting farms and enforcing penalties where rules have been broken.

Read the rest

Cross compliance: tough new standards or money for nothing?

During last week’s furore over trading in CAP subsidy entitlements, the question of what farmers must do in return for their subsidy was raised. In a speech on 6 March 2007 in India, Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said that the CAP’s new Single Farm Payment (SFP) is conditional on farmers observing “tough standards of environmental care, animal welfare and public health”. But a new report from the Institute for European Environment Policy provides some evidence that the conditionality of subsidy payments is something of a mirage. Only in a very small number of cases do the requirements actually exceed what was already required by member states’ pre-existing laws on environmental pollution and animal welfare.

Read the rest

New market develops in farm subsidies

Given that milk quota has been actively traded in the UK, producing so-called ‘sofa milkers’, it should come as no surprise that Single Farm Payments are now being bought and sold. Agricultural brokers WebbPaton did fifteen deals in one day recently. The market has been described as ‘ferocious’ with rights to subsidies ‘flying off the shelf’. There’s an element of risk, but an investor could receive one-third of the original investment back each year.

Read the rest

So, goodbye then, President Chirac

he announcement that he will be stepping down as French President by Jacques Chirac reminds us that for a long time France has had a head of state and government who has also seen himself as Minister of Agriculture. Two of his last public appearances were at the Paris agricultural show and a European summit in Brussels, the site of his many battles in defence of French farming subsidies. Chirac owns a chateau in the Massif Central which is one of the poorest and most sparsely populated rural areas of France.

The Financial Times commented, ‘His near-umbilical attachment to the country’s farmers throughout his career, which included a spell as agriculture minister, means he can at least count on them to be saddened that the Chirac era is coming to an end.’

Read the rest

Investors buying up farm subsidies

The past week has seen a series of revelations in the media about the way that decoupled farm subsidies are operating in Scotland. It has become evident that farm subsidy entitlements are being sold by farmers and that investors – who may never have set foot on a farm – are buying up entitlements to claim the new Single Farm Payment, which accounts for the bulk of the European Union’s £48.5 billion Common Agricultural Policy.

Read the rest

'Suspended pessimism' remains Doha mood

Bilateral discussions have continued between the key participants in the Doha Round farm trade talks, most recently in London, but although clarification of the issues and what might be possible continues, there has been little real progress. Key participants in Geneva have described the overall mood as one of ‘suspended pessimism’.

Read the rest

‘Suspended pessimism’ remains Doha mood

Bilateral discussions have continued between the key participants in the Doha Round farm trade talks, most recently in London, but although clarification of the issues and what might be possible continues, there has been little real progress. Key participants in Geneva have described the overall mood as one of ‘suspended pessimism’.

Read the rest

Biofuels may push up beer prices

I was giving a presentation on the CAP during this week and I was asked if ending it would threaten food security in Europe. My reply was that no one was advocating dismantling the CAP overnight, so any adjustments would be phased in, but that the real challenge to food security came from the rapid expansion of growing crops as biofuels. A structural shift is going on in farm markets. An illustration of this is what is happening to the price of barley which is used for beer, whisky and animal feed.

Read the rest

Biofuels- a cold look at a hot issue

Biofuels have been all the rage lately among EU decision makers and Council seems bound on setting an ambitious new binding target for their use. As climate change has finally made it to the top of the political agenda biofuels are being hailed as the silver bullet. Everybody seems to agree they are also a key to the future of the CAP, but consensus ends there. Some see energy production as the perfect excuse to maintain and even restore production subsidies, while others see the opportunity to junk the subsidies as farmers will be making a living from selling (subsidised) biofuels.

Read the rest