Why do we need a European Common Agricultural Policy anyway?

As many readers will be aware, the Common Agricultural Policy, which makes up a significant amount of European spending, is due to be reformed in the wake of ‘Europe 2020’ (http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm). Between April and June 2010 a public debate was held which gathered a multiplicity of views on the future of the CAP. The results from this debate were useful in that the data created has enabled a more nuanced method of thinking in generating the new strategy. Interestingly, they discovered that, in the mostpart, consumers and stakeholders thought along broadly the same lines.

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In addressing this question we have to take into regard that a majority of European citizens still live in rural areas and many live in deprived areas or areas unable to sustain themselves economically. Although a minority of the European population are engaged in agricultural activity, food production and land management remains and, I will go so far as saying, will remain indefinitely a major issue for Europe.

In a global market and with a rising global demand for food, particularly protein based foods, European producers must be in as good a position as possible to compete. In a new world of volatile food prices consumers should not be threatened by the prospect of an inability to provide a steady and diverse supply of raw materials. European agriculture should be more competitive and the supply chain should be able to live up to the increasing expectations by consumers with regards to food quality and transparency, particularly in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. Some may say that national governments would be able to serve these interests but I believe that both politically and financially it is better to deal with these issues on a Europe wide scale. Further to these points we have expectations to face the demands created by climate change and fulfil environmental, health and quality standardisation demands and concentrate on that buzzword, sustainability.

It is easy for a small farmer to feel just that; small; in a Europe wide scheme and perhaps making the system more regional may provide more of a personal face. I disagree. Look at huge national organisations such as the NHS in England. Bureaucratic organisations remain so no matter how they are organised and with regards to agriculture, scale is the way forward when it comes to policy. I would like to see more variety in terms of policy relating to specific farming practices but that is detail. The main point should be that so long as Europe continues to work together within a Union, agricultural policy should remain at the heart of European policy making.

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