French government fighting itself

France has always played a pivotal role in the CAP. As a founder member of the EU, Europe’s largest agricultural economy and the biggest single beneficiary of CAP monies, it has a lot at stake. It is therefore fascinating to witness a violent power struggle within Nicolas Sarkozy’s government over the future of the policy.

On 18 October, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo and Sustainable Development Minister Chantal Jouanno put their names to a 16-page reform proposal that would see France’s current annual €10 billion a year in CAP payments be divided between basic income payments with environmental compliance (€3 billion), farmland conservation contracts (€6 billion) and food chain and price safety nets (€1 billion).… Read the rest

French environment ministry coming out in favour of a green CAP

In a smart move, the Ministry proposes to keep the current €10 billion CAP budget for France – thus making the proposals more appealing to its domestic audience – and it uses the budget issue as a stick/carrot: a large budget can only be justified for a green CAP.

The money is allocated to several instruments (doing away with the traditional two-pillar structure):

* €3 billion for direct income support, available to all farmers in the EU at an equal level, without any historic base. National governments could have the possibility to top up these payments. A flexible component could be introduced to soften fluctuation in prices and regional yields.… Read the rest

For an Ambitious Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy

In late 2009, leading agricultural economists from all over Europe issued a declaration on ‘A Common Agricultural Policy for European Public Goods’. They proposed the abolition of market intervention and blanket income support to farmers, and outlined a more efficient, greener CAP. Since then, DG Agriculture, the European Parliament and many member states have adopted positions that closely stick to the status quo. Now a new declaration ‘For an Ambitious Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy’ has been published. All European economists who work on agricultural policy issues are invited to join the declaration online.

The declaration states:

The need for ambitious CAP reform: The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) fails to adequately fulfill important societal objectives: to enhance biodiversity and climate protection, improve water quality, preserve scenic landscapes, increase animal welfare, promote innovative, efficient farming and fair competition in the internal market, and avoid harming farmers abroad.… Read the rest

Budget rumbles in Brussels

The summer break has come and gone and with the European Parliament back in session, Commissioners back from their yachts and their fonctionnaires back at their desks, the future of the EU budget is back in the spotlight.

As part of the December 2005 heads of government agreement on the 2007-2013 financial perspective it was agreed that there would be a midterm ‘budget review’ in 2008-09 which would look at all areas of the EU budget. including the two hottest political potatoes – the large share of funds going to the CAP and the British budget rebate. The review began with a big public consultation led by the then Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite, who pulled no punches in describing the budget as largely out of tune with Europe’s current and future challenges.… Read the rest

A tale of two visions

The reformist zeal of the 15 professors in the German scientific advisory board on agriculture is remarkable, and their statement (in German) largely concurs with the declaration for ‘A Common Agricultural Policy for European Public Goods’ signed by experts from all across Europe half a year ago. The statement even goes beyond the recent proposals (in German) made by the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU): agricultural economists overtake environmental experts in their demands for CAP reform.

According to the scientific advisory board on agriculture, market price, direct income and farm-level investment support should be removed. There is no reason to fear a massive breakdown in EU agriculture: 61% of German agricultural area is rented out, so that large share of direct payments does not benefit farming anyway; bioenergy makes it increasingly attractive to continue farming; structural change will allow significant cost reductions to make farming more competitive; several agricultural sub-sectors are economically viable, and have been so for a long time, without receiving significant subsidies and tariff protection; the extra costs of higher EU standards are low for most farms (less than €50/ha); and targeted payments to maintain agriculture in areas threatened by undesirable land abandonment can compensate adverse effects.… Read the rest

EP own-initiative report on the post-2013 CAP

The Rapporteur of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (ComAgri), George Lyon, has presented his take on the post-2013 CAP. Once the document has been discussed and amended by ComAgri, it will be voted upon first in ComAgri (June) and then in the EP plenary (July).

The starting point of the draft already chills expectations: “The Common Agricultural Policy has been largely successful in fulfilling the objectives it was set out to accomplish so far.”

Three groups of objectives are identified. 1) Supporting economic needs – including an EU agriculture competitive on world markets, EU food security in an unstable world context, and the valuable contribution EU agriculture and the downstream agri-food sector make to EU growth and employment.… Read the rest

The Socialist Revolution

1789: the people of Paris take the Bastille. 1848: republican upheaval all across Europe. 1917: the Communists take power in Russia. 2010: the European Socialists & Democrats declare that the CAP needs to be revolutionized. Admittedly, the S&D do not pretend to lay claim to quite such daring historical parallels – but there is no doubt that they make bold claims: the ‘one step at a time while maintaining the original philosophy’ approach of the 1992, 2000, 2003 and 2008/09 reforms has been ‘overly timid’. Explaining that progressives are those who anticipate and guide ambitious reform processes, whereas conservatives only tackle the issues when forced to do so by the emergence of crises or external constraints, they conclude that, ‘the reform of the CAP over the last 15 years has generally followed this second path.’… Read the rest

CAP Reform Conversations: Paolo De Castro MEP

In the first of a series of video conversations with leading figures in the debate over the future of the CAP, Jack Thurston talks to Paolo De Castro MEP, chair of the parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and a former two-term Italian agriculture minister and professor of agricultural economics.

De Castro explains that he has always regarded himself as a CAP reformer and sets out his vision for a reshaping of the EU’s farm subsidy system. He advocates a shift to a basic flat rate aid payment to farmers, plus additional funds to be allocated at the discretion of member states.… Read the rest

German call for reform of CAP payments

The German Council for Sustainable Development has just published a report highlighting the environmental damage caused by intensive agriculture and calling for a reform of the CAP direct payments system. It proposes a three-fold structure of payments: an environmental basic payment, a series of targeted agri-environmental payments for farmers who accept higher obligations, and a series of payments for high nature-value areas where the continuation of agricultural production is desirable but threatened on economic grounds.

For the environmental basic payment, it suggests that eligibility would be conditional on farmers turning over at least 10% of their area to environmentally-friendly husbandry with a view to maintaining a high level of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape throughout the EU.… Read the rest

ELO and BirdLife fire the starting gun

Nothing tells you that a big political debate is hotting up like the emergence of new alliances of odd bedfellows. Yesterday saw a major joint intervention from two of Europe’s biggest, most authoritative and well-connected players in EU agriculture policy.

Birdlife International is a global partnership of conservation organisations. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, its member in the UK, boasts well over a million members. The European Landowners Organization is a federation of farmer and landowner associations. Both Birdlife and ELO have members and affiliates in each of the EU’s 27 member states.

They have come together in support of new ‘joint position’ for the future of the CAP.… Read the rest