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.
Point of view

Shedding light on Dacian Ciolos’ performance: What can we take away from “The CAP post-2013” Conference?

by Dominique Lasserre, Advisor, momagri

Conference chaired by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development

Ahead of Dacian Ciolos’s announcement on the preliminary options for the CAP reform scheduled for mid-November, we thought relevant to note several elements generated by the debate launched at the start of the year.

While all observers welcomed the new Commissioner’s different frame of mind and work methods, no public statement has yet truly questioned the orientations expressed by Mariann Fischer Boel, in particular regarding the CAP Health Check. And this quite rightly breeds skepticism on the part of those who fear that the reform is already “a done deal”.

For its part, momagri considers that the approach initiated by Dacian Ciolos is crucial to enable a shift in mindsets towards a different system to solve the price volatility and dumping level of agricultural prices. The anticipated “intellectual revolution” is so important that time is needed to achieve it.

Consequently, whether we consider the Public Forum or the Conference on “The CAP post-2013”, we are facing a multi-faceted process––communication operations, assessment of the powers at play, initiating the pursuit of a consensus and testing new ideas.

To Dacian Ciolos’ credit, we can undeniably mention a declared consensus on the fact that agriculture and food are strategic fields. We also note for instance his initial views on maintaining the current CAP budget that are endorsed by most concerned players (agricultural organizations, NGOs and European Parliament members…). In this respect, how can we not examine the coincidence of the convergent arguments between Dacian Ciolos’ address and MEP George Lyon’s report on the future of the post-2013 CAP that was voted through the European Parliament Plenary session this past July?

What can we count among his shortcomings, except items that are not under his responsibility, that is to say views regarding the global EU budget and the key budget principles that will determine the future European agricultural policy?

Shedding light on Dacian Ciolos’ performance is therefore not enough to assess the reality of the reorientation. It also involves following closely the work of budget officials––at the European Parliament and at the Commission––without omitting the position of some member states (Poland as well as several Eastern European members), which could tip the scale one way or the other. And momagri is precisely working in that direction.

Summary Report on “The post-2013 CAP” Public Forum and Conference

1. A majority of European citizens:
    - Consider agriculture to be a key issue (46%), thus corroborating the Eurobarometer poll conducted earlier this year;

    - Has a limited knowledge of the CAP (57%);

    - Expects safe and healthy products from agriculture;

    - Generally supports financial aid (39% for full support, 44% somewhat supportive and only 8% are opposed);
2. The responses published in the Forum were so many, thorough and wide-ranging (“a rainbow of responses”) that experts in charge of sorting them out admitted meeting some difficulty in drawing out general findings.

As a result, all views were expressed––from the proponents of a totally free market (a rather German position) to those favoring a strong agricultural policy (a rather French position). A gap was clearly observed between the defenders of “small farmers struggling to survive” and the supporters of “large competitive farms”.

These viewpoints are indicative of:
    - A detrimental lack of communication concerning the CAP;
    - An outlook that is still very far apart on several key points (public support levels, the role of markets, payment of public goods, food security requirements, border protection levels and regulation of futures markets…)
    … that explain the true difficulty to project a precise orientation for the CAP reform.
3. The strategic nature of agriculture has been well perceived but for two main factors: the environment and food security.

However, we feel that the problems relating to the very activity of farmers were not sufficiently addressed.

4. Several proposals and analyses circulated by momagri are starting to “carry weight” in the public debate:
    - “We need a flexible CAP that combines measures targeted and adapted to the various crisis situations to best support farmers income” (Dr. Francesco Mantino, Director of Research at the Italian Institute of Agricultural Economics).

    - “The future CAP must enable farmers “to make a living from prices and not subsidies” and to cope with “market failures and structural price instability”.

    - “We must stop sacrificing agriculture on the altar of liberalization” (Polish trade union).

    - “Income stabilization must be achieved by price stabilization, obviously at a level that enables farmers to make a living from their production”.
5. Dr. Bertrand Hervieu called our attention to the “semantics shift from multi-usage to public good”. Yet, behind the issue of public goods looms that of farmers’ income. And the question of “how to pay for these public goods” remains unanswered.

6. Misgivings regarding price volatility still remain superficial and influenced by the “OECD ideology”.

In fact, one of the attending experts, Professor Christopher Gilbert who heads the Doctoral School in Economics and Management at the University of Trento in Italy, stated that we were still lacking any certainty on the subject. He also added, “the world is not trouble-free and all considerations are true”. For example, the professor explained, “liberalization was both part of the problem and part of the answer”. When asked, “if liberalization curbs or increases volatility”, he replied “yes and no”.

7. Professor Marc Dufumier’s contribution was particularly well received, as he denounced the EU dependence on animal proteins and called for the resumption of border tariffs for such products.

The professor was also one of the few participants to emphasize that agriculture does not reflect straight and perfect competition economics, a fact that fully justifies regulation.

8. In conclusion, one can fully understand the Commissioner’s closing appeal for a strong, effective and balanced CAP, since the three qualifiers sum up the essence of the various contributions:
    - “Strong” because agriculture involves numerous challenges and public expectations (as shown by the findings of the Public Debate). Hence, the budget must not be cut…

    - “Effective”, as one recognizes that the current CAP no longer works––hence the need for reform––and thus answers all CAP detractors (those for and those against);

    - “Balanced”, as this addresses the many critical comments concerning support discrepancies between production and geographical areas. The proposed orientations will certainly be based on this logic. In fact, the terms and conditions for granting incentives have regularly been condemned.

What did you take away from the Conference?

for Christian Pèes, Vice President of momagri and Chairman of the Board of the Euralis Group,
“Dacian Ciolos is searching for an overall balance between numerous expectations and wide-ranging positions. The whole problem will rest on where to point the cursor.”

for Julien Valentin, board member of the French Young Farmers Association, Vice-President of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA),
“ I am still amazed that not a single expert noted the risks caused by the high wheat prices that were already visible then. This proves that we are totally powerless against price volatility. Regulating agricultural markets is an urgent matter.”

Some additional comments

for Christiane Lambert, Vice President of the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA),
“The price tunnel is a concept that must be researched… Actually, we must make a distinction between “manageable” price variations and price hyper-volatility, which implies a crisis situation.”

For Nadège Chambon, Analyst with the think tank Notre Europe,
“All attending players are convinced to the need for a strong CAP. {…} What must we do now to convinced budget officials?”
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Paris, 19 June 2019