CAP must win public approval, says Ciolos

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Par2830575 A Common Agriculture Policy that can be justified to European citizens is the priority for European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday (6 January), Mr Ciolos said that food production remains the number one objective of agriculture and for farmers. This fulfils a duty to European citizens to provide them with quality, healthy food.

"But it would be simplistic to limit the CAP to just that. It also deals with helping farmers preserve our natural resources and maintain a countryside people want to live in."

Direct payments should be maintained, Mr Ciolos affirmed - "their income-supporting function is a must".

But he said there was a need to link payments more closely to their twin roles as income support for farmers and recognition of the provision of public goods not remunerated by the market.

"We must make sure that the support is given on the basis of objective criteria, reflecting what agriculture provides to European citizens, rather than on what farmers have received in the past."

This means a small part of Pillar 1 payments will be linked to the delivery of public goods - an incentive for farmers to apply production methods that preserve natural resources, such as crop rotation and green cover on arable land.

CAP payments need to be focused on active farmers, said Mr Ciolos - this is one of the two biggest criticisms from taxpayers at present. The other is a lack of a ceiling on payments.

"We are currently paying large landholders, who may not actually be in need of the same level of income support as small or medium-sized farmers. Capping will address this."

This is likely to be at around 300,000 euros, while the definition of active farmers is likely to depend on whether the land is being used for agriculture.

Payments across the EU and to different areas may vary, but Mr Ciolos made it clear that the criteria applied should not - he was keen that member states see the CAP as a truly common policy.

"Our purpose must be to encourage farmers across Europe to make the same efforts and focus on the same priorities."

Flexibility will be provided through Pillar 2 - designed to help member states support farmers who want to do more to fight climate change and to protect environment and natural resources.

Here more emphasis will be put on research and innovation, with potentially a new stream of funding for UK farmers and farmer organizations to put research into practice on farms, and to accelerate technology transfer from laboratory to the field.

Market intervention should remain, rebranded as security features that will act as "safety belts or airbags" to protect sector collapse. "The dairy crisis showed that we need tools to fight market volatility."

The problem with Mr Ciolos' priority to justify the budget could mean it would lead to a more complicated system, and system is complicated enough already.

The European Union's way is something that, as far as I am concerned, we should question and if our farmers need help to produce the food for the nation then it should be by way of proper remuneration for the produce and products.

It is time the CAP would be sent to the landfill and farms be allowed to get on with their job, that of producing food for the nation, not as regulated by the EU but by what people want.

If farms be allowed to get on with the business of producing food, good food, without the interference from either Brussels or Whitehall they would actually be able to make money, especially if the country would put local and national food above imports of the same stuff from abroad.

We must be bl**dy mad!

© 2011