European Agricultural Economists Call for Ambitious CAP Reform
A group of leading European agricultural economists has urged EU policymakers to reform farm subsidy programmes to promote environmental objectives, animal welfare, and competitiveness at home while minimising harm to farmers abroad, criticising current proposals for post-2013 farm spending as inadequate.
In a new declaration, "For an Ambitious Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy," the experts argue that the EU's existing farm subsidy scheme "fails to adequately fulfill important social objectives: to enhance biodiversity and climate protection, improve water quality, preserve scenic landscapes, increase animal welfare, promote innovative, efficient farming and fair competition in the internal market, and avoid harming farmers abroad."
They contend that remodelling large sections of the CAP for its next budgetary period, starting in 2013, would be beneficial for Europe and the world.
According to the declaration, "decision-makers in agricultural policy appear unwilling to seize the opportunity for substantive reform," despite considerable consensus on data about the potential positive effects of far-reaching CAP reform. Existing proposals, such as a leaked reform proposal prepared by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, "intend to maintain the status quo to a large extent." (See Bridges Weekly, 20 October 2010)
The declaration calls on policymakers to "pay less attention to special interests," and recommends a set of guiding principles for reforming the CAP. Subsidies should be closely targeted to the provision of public goods, it argues; those that do not vary based on the public goods yielded, such as the "single farm payment," should be phased out. "The alleviation of rural poverty should be a function of social and not agricultural policy," the authors argue. The declaration calls for sustainable land use to be "the key objective" of the CAP, and stresses that subsidies should interfere with markets to the minimum extent possible (with export subsidies abolished). CAP funding structures should be re-examined to see where individual member states could share part of the burden with the EU. The declaration also urges greater public research and development to enhance productivity and global food security.