Britain’s Defra secretary told the Oxford Farming Conference is committed to a system by 2020 where ‘public funds are only used for public goods, in particular environmental benefits.’ This would mean the effective end of Pillar 1 and of restraints on trade. ‘I see an inevitable process of trade liberalisation, with huge pressure on subsidies and restraints on trade.’ Contrary to the views of the farm commissioner, the 2008 CAP health check should be used to pursue a ‘further fundamental reform’.
Conservative leader Dave Cameron also called for further reform of the CAP. Export subsidies should be phased out. ‘We also need to start to shift the costs of the CAP onto the countries that spend the most by phasing in compulsory co-financing.’
Irish farm minister Mary Coughlan made the case for providing a reasonable degree of policy stability, arguing that one could not introduce major policy reforms every three or four years. She declared her support for the ‘continuation of market supports and direct payments. EU production should be protected from cheap imports’, the corollary of which is that EU consumers cannot benefit from them.
She declared, ‘The average farm size in the EU could not provide a living for a family at present world prices.’ But this is the key question: should public funds be used to sustain commercial enterprises that are not viable, unless they are providing public goods.