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For a long term strategic vision of the CAP
The 2013 deadline3 is getting closer and nevertheless the decisions taken by the European decision-makers are trampling, as illustrated by the recent Annecy Summit where not a single concrete proposal was put forward4. Notwithstanding, the current period is favourable :agricultural raw material price volatility is high, stocks are low, the food crisis is dragging on in many parts of the world, and the financial crisis is there to remind us of the dangers of entrusting deregulated markets with the world’s future. It is therefore essential to rethink the CAP, the only integrated European policy, in its economic and budget dimensions, but also strategic, and that’s precisely where the COPA COGECA proposals presented at the last European Farmers Congress in 2008 deserve to be highlighted.
They confirm the importance of agricultural production at a time when minds are focused on the WTO’s commercial issues and on rural development. But, it shouldn’t be forgotten that to “exchange” or to care about territory disposition, farmers first need to produce in a lasting way so as to be able to live off their produce.
And, they underline the need to regulate agricultural markets for, as Jean-Michel Lemétayer, President of the COP puts it, «the world cannot risk an agricultural and food crisis of the level of the current financial crisis ».
“Copa-Cogeca believes that the future CAP should, first and foremost, enable farmers to meet EU citizens' aspirations and concerns in the face of the challenges of the 21st century. One of the most important challenges will be to enable men and women farmers to optimise their production potential and competitivity while at the same time enabling them to meet the highest standards of safety and sustainability and contribute to maintaining rural areas which are attractive places to live and provide employment and prosperity. In other words, the multi-functional role of farmers will be more important in the future than ever before.
Before discussing the future financing of the CAP after 2013, it is essential to obtain a consensus on the objectives of the CAP in the decades to come and how these objectives could best be achieved. Copa and Cogeca believe that if the future CAP is to meet citizens' aspirations and concerns it should be based on the following principles:
> The vital nature of the economic role of farmers – to provide essential food supplies – and their wider role of meeting society's territorial, environmental and social objectives distinguish agriculture from other economic sectors;
> The CAP of the future should recognize that farmers are entrepreneurs and wish to obtain as large a proportion of their income as possible from the market. However, it should also be clearly recognized that farmers provide services, some of which are not currently adequately remunerated through the market and others which never will be;
> Agriculture should contribute to the reinforcement of the European Union – the CAP must remain a common policy with common rules to ensure that competition within the single EU market is not distorted, while taking into account the diversity of European agriculture;
> Financial solidarity is necessary to ensure greater economic and social cohesion and integration throughout the EU of 27 Member States and a greater rural/urban balance.”
To this purpose, the Copa-Cogeca developed the ideas discussed in the principles stated here-above into eight proposals which could serve as a strategic framework for a future common agricultural policy.
“The over-riding objective of the CAP should be to ensure a sustainable agricultural sector in Europe – economically, environmentally and socially – which meets European society's needs and plays its part in responding to world challenges. In particular, to:
>Provide a stable framework for the development of agricultural production, through increased productivity and competitivity, as well as the proper functioning of the market, so that the EU's strategic independence of supply in all its key production sectors is maintained and consumers are thereby assured secure, stable and safe food supplies and so that the EU is also able to contribute to meeting the rising world demand for food;
> Ensure the maintenance of a rich diversity of high-quality food from different rural areas throughout the EU and ensure that consumers are fully informed about the food they purchase;
> Ensure that all production is carried out in a way which protects the environment (air, soil, water), protects animal welfare and biodiversity and provides an attractive countryside;
> Optimize EU agriculture's contribution to economic and employment opportunities in rural areas throughout the EU;
> Encourage land management practices which promote biodiversity and resource and habitat conservation, taking into account specific regional conditions;
> Help farmers both mitigate and adapt to the negative effects of climate change;
> Ensure EU agriculture's contribution to reducing CO2 emissions and the EU's dependence on energy imports through the production of renewable non-food resources;
> Ensure a fair standard of living for agricultural producers and long-term prospects which will attract future generations of both men and women farmers to a career in farming.”
The merit of the COPA COGECA proposals is to put the CAP reform back into a strategic context which takes into account the 21st century European challenges. Thereby they reinforce our assessment and the objectives which we consider as fundamental for the future CAP and, put the accent particularly on two proposals we put forward last April and which, given the current situation, pull their full weight.
First of all, to manage Agriculture and Food as International Public Goods, at the crossroads of economic growth, sustainable development, food safety and the battle against poverty. A global and integrated approach which isn’t partitioned as it is today, is indeed the only way to embrace the global agricultural issue which for the greater part goes beyond market borders.
Then, to control agricultural raw material prices following the « snake in the tunnel » logic put in place in the 80’s so as to prevent the drifts observed on the monetary and banking markets. Which means free price fluctuation within margins defined through international consensus and the triggering of regulating mechanisms there-beyond. The merit of such an approach would first of all be to reduce agricultural price volatility and also to be fully in line with the recommendations made today in the international financial area.
The momagri editorial team
1 European Committee of Professional Agricultural Organizations
2 European General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives
3 The PAC reform is scheduled in 2013
4 See the Point of view “A Few Remarks to Break the European Union Deadlock on the Future of the CAP”, 20/10/08