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The mixed up world of US Senator Chuck Grassley

We all know that the legislators who write US farm policy are not the brightest bulbs in the box. Even so, Senator Chuck Grassley treated us to an unusual insight into his own very special, mixed-up world during a telephone press briefing last week, reported in the Des Moines Register. Asked about the contribution of the US Government’s massive food-to-fuel subsidies to rising world food prices and the resulting hunger, poverty and social unrest, Grassley denied there was any connection and suggested the responsibility lay with people in China eating too much meat.… Read the rest

Dutch farmers get most subsidy per hectare

One proposal in the Commission’s health check communication of 20 November 2007 is that the member states which still allocate farm subsidies on the basis of historic entitlements should move to the area average system in which allocations are the same across all hectares in a given geographical region. But it looks as though this change will be optional, according to a speech made by Commissioner Fischer Boel in Ireland on 29 January. Moreover, the flat rate system does nothing to address the striking inequalities between member states, which shows that on average, Dutch farmers get €1299 per hectare, while Portuguese farmers get just €88.… Read the rest

A food fight over the farm bill

As the European Union gears up for the CAP Health Check in 2008, the United States is already deep in debate over the Farm Bill, which is due for renewal this year. Just as the CAP sets Europe’s farm policies, the Farm Bill (each one lasting for 5 years) defines agriculture policy for the US. And just like the CAP, the Farm Bill is hostage to the narrow producer interests that benefit directly from the policy: big, industrial agribusiness and farmers who monoculture the five big subsidized crops: corn, soya beans, wheat, rice and sugar. ‘Outsiders’ such as consumers, taxpayers, conservationists and those speaking up for farmers in poor developing countries rarely get much of a look in.… Read the rest

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.… Read the rest