The CAP and the Budget Review - Visions for the Future
On December 11th 2008, a conference organised by CSO (BirdLife International’s Czech partner) and ProBio (the Czech organic farmers association) addressed two questions: Where should the CAP move after 2013? And, how will it be affected by the revision of the EU budget?
The participation of high level representatives from 9 Member States spiced up the conference, making for a lively, and at times, unexpectedly open debate. The rift between pro-reform countries such as Sweden and Netherlands and Member States with more defensive attitude to the CAP such as France and Austria was evident, particularly on the budgetary issues: the size of the future CAP, the extent to which budget concerns should drive reform etc.The Czech government representatives were refreshingly open about the different agendas that drive the positions of finance and agriculture ministries.
A number of points of convergence emerged from across the spectrum. The need to move away from the use of a historical reference for the distribution of subsidies seemed to be universally accepted. So did the need for a system of environmental payments to reward farmers for the delivery of public goods.
Another issue that appeared to be supported by all, though sometimes framed differently, is the need to prop up economically marginal but ecologically and socially important farming activities such as certain extensive grazing systems. However, the High Nature Value concept still seems to be resisted by some of the more conservative Member States and stakeholders.
Finally, there seemed to be a wide recognition of the need for the CAP to support a transition toward more sustainable farming practices. Such practices would include less dependence on fossil fuels, less pollution, greater efficiency in the use of water and nutrients and less harm to biodiversity and the climate. Tellingly, no suggestions were made of a return to production subsidies or to the micro-management of agricultural commodity markets.
While these areas of convergence cannot mask deep disagreements over market regulation, protectionism, and the use of biofuels, they do seem to represent a good starting point for a constructive debate, potentially leading to a better and more widely accepted CAP.
The conference presentations are available here.
The Conference was supported by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture.
26 Feb 2009
Ariel Brunner is EU Agriculture Policy officer with the environmental NGO BirdLife International. He advocates CAP reform and better implementation of EU rural development policy.