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The milk quota mess

As the debate goes on in the EU about whether milk quotas can be increased by 2 per cent as part of the soft landing when they are eventually abolished in 2015, it is an opportunity to reflect how milk quotas have affected the UK dairy industry. They were introduced in 1984 to ease the severe budgetary crisis brought about by the structural surplus of milk in Europe. They worked in terms of limiting production growth and coping with the budgetary crisis, but they brought a lot of unintended (or intended) problems in their wake.… Read the rest

Well fancy that…

What a difference a change of ministerial portfolio makes! Back in 2006, Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for International Development, was strident in his criticisms of the CAP:

“Through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), two fifths of the EU budget goes on subsidies and support to Europe’s farmers who represent 5% of Europe’s population, and produce less than 2% of Europe’s output. Most is not spent in the poorer parts of Europe where it is needed. Most goes to the biggest farming companies and landowners, not small farmers.”

Times change, Prime Ministers come and go, and Hilary Benn is now Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.… Read the rest

Churchill, Malthus, Brown, Barnier and agricultural protectionism

Earlier this week, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Churchill Confidential, a dramatisation of British cabinet meetings chaired by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, records of which have only recently been released into the public domain. In this week’s episode, looking at Churchill’s second term of office (1951-55), we get an overview of the pressing issues of state at that time: the impending conflict with Egypt over the Suez Canal, the development of the British atom bomb, balancing Britain’s relationships with its European neighbours and the United States of America, immigration and race relations, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the devaluation of the pound and, somewhat incongruously… a decision on whether to reduce the meat ration.… Read the rest

Public supports ‘consumer agenda’ in farm policy

A new survey of public opinion released today by the German Marshall Fund of the United States shows strong support for ‘consumer agenda’ in EU and US agriculture policies focused on food safety, the environment and the food supply. There was significantly less support for producer-oriented priorities like providing emergency financial relief to farmers, insuring farmers against unpredictable market conditions and preserving small family farms.… Read the rest

Public supports 'consumer agenda' in farm policy

A new survey of public opinion released today by the German Marshall Fund of the United States shows strong support for ‘consumer agenda’ in EU and US agriculture policies focused on food safety, the environment and the food supply. There was significantly less support for producer-oriented priorities like providing emergency financial relief to farmers, insuring farmers against unpredictable market conditions and preserving small family farms.… Read the rest

Specious arguments against limiting payments to largest farms

Initial media reaction to the Commission’s Health Check proposals has been predictable, with most papers picking up as the lead story the Commission’s proposal to apply a tapering reduction to direct payments to larger farms. The Financial Times story was headlined “Communists and royalty fight farm subsidy cuts.” Much was made of the fact that the Commission’s illustrative proposals would reduce the payments received by the Queen of England, who apparently received £465,000 (€650,000) in 2005, by over £140,000 (€192,000). British and German officials were quoted as saying they would oppose these reductions as they were unworkable and undesirable.… Read the rest

Handy primer on CAP reform debate

The new issue of Food Ethics magazine is devoted to a discussion of CAP reform and the 2008 CAP Health Check. Alongside articles by CAP Health Check blogger Wyn Grant and me, you’ll find some useful analysis by many of the movers and shakers in the CAP debate, both in Brussels, the UK and elsewhere. Read article-by-article here, or download the entire magazine as a handy PDF file: Food Ethics – CAP Reform issue. The Food Ethics Council is a UK-registered charity that challenges government, business and society to make wise choices that lead to better food and farming.… Read the rest

Productionists unite under food security banner

A number of producer interests would like to revive food security as a major driver of agricultural policy. Organisations like the Commercial Farmers Group (CFG) in the UK, a small grouping of leading producers, argue that new threats are present in the form of population growth, pandemic diseases, climate change, terrorist actions and increased demand for renewable fuels. They want to change the balance between the environmental and food safety concerns that have been driving agricultural policy in recent years and return to more traditional productionist priorities.… Read the rest

UK Conservatives endorse the CAP

John Gummer MP, the former UK Agriculture Minister who is currently advising Conservative Party leader David Cameron on farm policy, has taken a swipe those in his party who call for a repatriation of the EU’s common agricultural policy:

“There is no doubt at all that unless we get a kind of common deal in the EU farmers will get no money at all. No British government of any kind is prepared to foot the bill. Anybody who dares to talk about repatriation doesn’t care about farming because you won’t have it.”

Read the rest