A new vision for agriculture
momagri, movement for a world agricultural organization, is a think tank chaired by Christian Pèes.
It brings together, managers from the agricultural world and important people from external perspectives,
such as health, development, strategy and defense. Its objective is to promote regulation
of agricultural markets by creating new evaluation tools, such as economic models and indicators,
and by drawing up proposals for an agricultural and international food policy.
Thierry Pouch

The CAP’s Golden Jubilee

by Thierry Pouch,

Head of the Economic Studies Department
Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Agriculture (APCA)

This year, May 9––or Europe Day––marked the 62nd anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, which is considered as the founding text of what would ultimately become the European Union. We highly recommend Thierry Pouch’s editorial in the Economic Letter of the Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Agriculture (APCA)1 that reviews another significant event of 2012––the fiftieth anniversary of the Common Agricultural Policy. The current context is sufficient grounds to evoke the history, initial objectives and achievements of the first integrated policy of the European Union. Thierry Pouch reminds us that the primary goal of the CAP was to turn the Common Market nations into a food self-sufficient zone. Many of our fellow citizens believe that this goal has largely been achieved, and that the CAP has created nothing but costly surpluses. The reality is quite different. Far from being self-sufficient, the European Union is a net importer of agricultural products. And then some! Our imports are equal to the cultivation of tens of million acres, that is to say the equivalent of France’s farmland.

momagri Editorial Board

On January 14, 1962, following close to weeklong negotiations between ministers of the Common Market six member nations, the Common Agricultural Policy––the very famous and so controversial CAP––was introduced. Fifty years later, in a particularly tense European environment, the Commission launched a campaign to celebrate this anniversary. What has been the CAP and what is it trying to achieve? These represent the two most important issues as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this old institution, which probably best embodies the European community spirit.

While the Euro Zone, and beyond it the entire European Union, are mired in a deep crisis, whose outcome is difficult to view, the CAP’s fiftieth anniversary provides a good opportunity to remember that agriculture was one of the foundations on which Europe was built. Far better, as we are dithering away on the introduction of a dose of budgetary federalism within the Euro Zone, and on the creation of financial solidarity mechanisms between nations, the celebration of the CAP’s fifty years invites us to reflect on the path it opened up in 1962.

The CAP’s goal was to turn the Common Market countries into a food self-sufficient zone. Aside from the trauma generated by the destruction of most economies during the war––to the point of seriously jeopardizing the production and access to food––there was also a geopolitical aspect in the creation of the CAP. Implemented only a few months after the construction of the Berlin Wall, the CAP was viewed as an instrument to eradicate all forms of Europe’s food dependence towards the Easter Bloc, especially by the United States that consequently tolerated it.

In addition, the ideological context was favorable, inasmuch as the crisis of the 1930s saw the triumph of Keynesianism over the liberal doctrine. To feed people at reasonable costs, incentives to boost agricultural production had to be designed. If there existed powerful regulation and support tools, agricultural productivity increases represented what is referred to as a genuine technical and economic revolution. The CAP effectiveness was mostly based on Community preference, price unity and financial solidarity between nations, with all agricultural expenditures borne by a common budget. A number of real successes were achieved, with the EU food self-sufficiency as the most remarkable accomplishment.

The CAP great adventure cracked on the reef of globalization, including, among others, the revenge of liberalism over interventionism. Reform by reform, the dismantling of governmental policy tools was initiated to become the basis for new ambitions of the Commission, which became widely open to so-called societal expectations. Farmers were thus called to meet several concerns that were not all compatible. Among these, agricultural production imperatives to help restore––at least in the short term, i.e. the time for every region to become self-sufficient––the global food balance, and this in contradiction with environmental challenges.

It is indeed a very special anniversary. There is cause for enthusiasm for the CAP successes, but in an environment of European governance crisis that breeds extremely divergent viewpoints regarding the continuance of the European construction, one really has to question the future of this shared ambition that represented the CAP. Because this is what is probably missing in Europe: A collaborative project overcoming the centrifugal forces that are currently at work.

1 http://www.chambres-agriculture.fr/grands-contextes/cles-de-lagriculture/economie/actualites/toutes-les-publications-economiques/article/lettre-economique-n-315-f/
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Paris, 16 June 2019