Ciolos hearing at the House of Commons

On 13 January, Dacian Ciolos gave testimony to the UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on CAP reform.

Emphasis on international competition as a justification for income support

I don’t see how our agriculture can, at the same time, be competitive in the international market and have higher level of standards than farmers in other parts of the world.

But if we don’t have this minimum support for income and compensatory payments, the risk is that a lot of farmers who can be competitive without the crosscompliance rules that we have in Europe but not in other parts of the world-who in normal situations can be competitive-will not be competitive.

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Voters punish Sarkozy, Le Maire stays on

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and voters expressed their dissatisfaction with his centre-right UMP party in regional elections yesterday. A resurgent Socialist-led opposition alliance took 52% of the vote and the UMP just 35%, squeezed in sevearl contests by the far-right National Front, which scored 9.4% of the national vote but took more than 22% in its two core regions in the north and south. Opposition candidates won in 21 of France’s 22 mainland regions.

Among the losers was French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire (pictured, right), who was rejected by voters of Normandy, where he was standing for election as Regional President.

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Roger Waite the new voice of DG Agri

Roger Waite, editor of Agra Facts and frequent podcast guest on this blog, has accepted the job of spokesperson for Agriculture Commissioner-designate Dacian Ciolos. It’s sometimes said that you can count the number of people who truly understand the Common Agricultural Policy on the fingers of one hand. Roger is certainly among that select few. He’s been reporting on agriculture policy in Brussels for the past 17 years and certainly knows his way around. He speaks fluent French (and German?) and has been said to possess a ‘silver tongue’. He steps into the larger-than-average shoes of Michael Mann, another poacher-turned-gamekeeper who gave up his job as the Financial Times Brussels correspondent to speak for Ciolos’s predecessor Mariann Fischer Boel.

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The job nobody wanted

Over at the excellent farmpolicy.com Roger Waite, editor of Agra Facts, has posted a thorough account of the appointment of the new EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos. He says that while Romania had sought the powerful position, it was really a case of appointment by default:

I tend to feel that Barroso was left with no other option, as no one was willing to put forward a good candidate – and that he was the only suitable candidate from among the nominees.

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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. ‘My opinion on CAP reform is very different from DEFRA’s view that all direct subsidies should be removed and we should rely on a free market. Scotland should not go down that route and our thinking is much closer to the mainstream of Europe which is that the pendulum is swinging back towards support for active agriculture.’

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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. ‘My opinion on CAP reform is very different from DEFRA’s view that all direct subsidies should be removed and we should rely on a free market. Scotland should not go down that route and our thinking is much closer to the mainstream of Europe which is that the pendulum is swinging back towards support for active agriculture.’

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Andris Piebalgs for Agriculture Commissioner?

With the CAP among the EU’s oldest and biggest policies, it’s something of a surprise that no country has nominated an ‘agriculture specialist’ for the commission. This makes for a challenge to select an able successor to Mariann Fischer Boel, who came to the post having served as Farms Minister in Denmark as well as having farming background herself. In Brussels it seems as if the front-runner is the current Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs of Latvia.

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Agricultural economists declare war on the CAP

I’ve always found the notion of ‘agricultural economists’ a curious one. As if the normal rules of economics don’t apply to agriculture and there’s need for a special discipline of agricultural economics. In universities agricultural economists are often housed in their own special departments, separate from the regular Economics department. I wonder if this alternate universe of agricultural economics might explain the state of agriculture policy, whether in the EU, the US or elsewhere. Anyway, today a group of agricultural economists from 22 EU countries has come out in favour of radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

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