CAP Reform Jun03
week, Europe's agriculture ministers met in Thessaloniki, Greece, to
finalise reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. While I welcome the
agreement as a positive step to overhauling the controversial system of
European subsidy payment to farmers, it is a huge disappointment that
governments caved in to pressure from the French and allowed them major
concessions over the reform.
current CAP gives Europe's farmers subsidies of £31bn a year, almost half
the entire budget of the EU. This system will become unsustainable when
the 10, mainly poor, rural countries join the EU next year unless drastic
reforms can be implemented.
the new agreement, farm subsidies will be "de-coupled" so that
farmers will receive a single payment, rather than receiving a sum in line
with the amount of food produced. The existing system of payments has
encouraged overproduction and caused a gross distortion in world markets.
Sadly, instead of making de-coupling compulsory in each member state, last
week's negotiations provided individual countries with a get-out clause,
allowing them to continue with the old system if there is a risk that the
new system would lead to the farm land being abandoned.
doing so, the French have made a mockery of, and severely, weakened the
proposed reforms, ensuring that the old principles of the Common
Agricultural Policy will remain in place. Member States have also allowed
the start date of reform to be delayed from 2005 to 2007.
allowing France to opt out of de-coupling, the EU has missed the
opportunity to end the costly, bureaucratic system of subsidies which has
led to the over-production of certain goods for profit. In a free market
economy, it is crucial that farmers are left to grow what the customer
wants, not what pays the biggest subsidy. The new reforms will neither
save the British taxpayer a single penny nor benefit the consumer who
currently pays some of the highest food prices in the world.
the concessions to the French will mean European agriculture will continue
to create vast food surpluses that will be dumped on poor countries.
Europe has missed its chance to lead the world in encouraging fair trade
and protecting poor farmers in developing countries. This will severely
handicap the EU's negotiating hand at the next World Trade Organisation
talks in September.
British Government must implement the de-coupled payment system. This is
the only way to end the bureaucratic nightmare for West Suffolk farmers of
form-filling and red tape, and encourage them to get closer to the market