Faced with multiple crisis, we, members of the European Parliament, intend to propose a new European strategy on agriculture and food. When a policy has failed to achieve its goals, it must be changed!
The successive reforms conducted since 1992 have led to a CAP that is now open to criticism regarding the questions of incomes, agricultural jobs, and extreme price volatility. As a result, this raises the issue of what type of agricultural development the European Union wants for both today and the future.
Even though agriculture is considered worldwide as a political priority and a sign of power or weakness in the case of food dependence, as far as Europe is concerned, the agricultural policy is becoming increasing less common, and could rapidly lead to strong distortions of competition between member states.
Because the future of rural communities is closely linked to the destiny of our farmers, we have gathered across the political spectrum to propose to the European Commission a new CAP that meets the strategic challenges of the 21st century.
A crisis foretold
The agricultural crisis affecting most activities, livestock farming in all its diversity (dairy, pork, poultry and beef) as well as large-scale farming clearly shows that:
- The current CAP and markets are not answering to farmers’ needs;
This crisis did not just suddenly happen. As early as the autumn of 2013, some reports were already announcing a dark future for European livestock farming. The measures proposed by the European Commission in September 2015 during the milk crisis represent a step forward, but they do not answer to the price volatility in the EU dairy sector.
- Farmers are demanding income stability, not subsidies;
- The post-2014 CAP is already marginalized and must be reviewed in light of the strategic challenges of the 21st century.
The topics of prices and incomes and more generally the economic issue of agricultural and food production must be the primary focus of all discussions in the upcoming CAP, since jobs and territorial balance are at stake.
The Russian embargo, the Chinese slowdown and the end of quotas have been key factors in triggering the crisis on the basis of a breakable CAP.
When a policy has failed to achieve its goals, it must be changed!
Too much errors
Among the worst errors are the denial of their instability of agricultural markets and the blind faith in the virtues of them, to which must be added the decisions that have today demonstrated their ineffectiveness: direct payments decoupled from the reality of agricultural production and the phasing out of management measures on price volatility.
Indeed, when prices are high, direct payments can hardly be justified. And these payments are inadequate in assisting farmers when prices are lower.
Result: the CAP is now working against major worldwide agricultural policies.
The European Union is the only entity basing its agricultural policy on subsidies decoupled from production, and entailing environmental restrictions. Agricultural policies in major producing countries (the US, Brazil, Canada, China...) have set up systems that secure prices and incomes. Out of the 49 countries surveyed, the OECD noted that 67% of aid to farmers is directly linked to prices, the volume of production or input use.
These instruments which are characterized by their countercyclical nature, are only activated when prices collapse below a floor level in order to prevent farmers from producing at a loss.
Under these unfair conditions between the CAP and other major agricultural policies, it is important to negotiate agricultural free trade agreements that do not destabilize the European agricultural and rural sector.
Give hope to farmers
This is why we have decided, along with many of our fellow MEPs, to create a study group aiming to set up “a new strategic direction for the CAP”. Our objective is to restore the CAP’s regulatory and stabilizing role, by improving the added value of EU expenditures in favour of a long-term strategy, ensuring sustainable development and promoting food security.
It is our responsibility as MEPs to propose a new direction for the CAP, on the basis of countercyclical and insurance-based tools, and within the budget of the European multiannual financial framework. It is urgent to give the CAP a true common meaning and to understand that rural decline will affect food dependency and therefore European Union policy!
We want to end the deadlock to which Europe is committed and rebuild the hopes of our farmers and our citizens.
1 Marc Tarabella Groupe des Socialistes et Démocrates (S&D) Belgique, Eric Andrieu S&D France, Jean-Paul Denanot S&D France, Nicola Caputo S&D Italie, Tibor Szanyi S&D Hongrie
2 The entire opinion column is available in french from