Vista on a new rural policy. Replacing the CAP after use
Proposals for a European rural and agricultural policy – March 2008
Rural topic(s): Advocacy on food and rural policies
Date of writing: April 13, 2009
Author(s) of the proposal: CLM (Centre for Agriculture and Environment)
CLM (Centre for Agriculture and Environment) promotes sustainable agriculture, healthy food and a vital rural economy in Europe. Liberalisation may cause a “race to the bot-tom” at the expense of the environment and cultural landscapes. Biodiversity, fresh water, soil quality and cultural landscapes are still in decline. Such conditions, added to climate change, put pressure on farming itself. The current Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is not equipped to adequately deal with these challenges. Some familiar objectives remain: to secure the supply of food for the European population. New goals should be added: transparency to the consumer, acceptable levels of animal welfare, and allowing developing countries market access and freedom to protect their home markets. Furthermore , the new policy should guide socio-economic rural transitions. And finally, it should sustain and enhance natural re-sources, including soil, water, air, the climate and biodiversity as well as cultural landscapes.
Three domains: food, rural environment and transition
The response to these developments is a new European policy covering three domains: food, rural environment and rural transition.
Food policy is mainly based on regulations like quality standards and labelling, and trade agreements. Some market-oriented instruments are be kept, such as strategic stockpiles, production quota or safety-net prices.
The domain of rural transition is aimed at socio-economic shifts in the new member states, but also climate change.
By far the largest share of the budget flows to the domain of rural environment and cultural heritage. Farmers and other land managers are to be fairly and directly rewarded for environmental services (i.e. managing and maintaining natural resources such as soil and water), or payments for broader public services such as management of cultural landscapes. It makes sense to concentrate efforts and funds at this domain. A healthy environment is the lifeblood of both people and farming. Our agricultural landscapes are a unique cultural heritage. It remains to be seen if the budget should be at EU-level of if it can be partly renationalised under an agreed European framework.
Replace CAP after use
The philosophy for farm-subsidies is turned upside down: governments do not support farmers’ income but pay farmers for delivering public goods like caring for landscape and nature. Furthermore, rural development is separated from such payments so as to clearly distinguish such semi-permanent payments from broader temporary investments in rural areas. And some old objectives are abandoned altogether since they are obsolete: cheap food is no longer an issue, with consumers spending only about 12% of their income on food. Any change to the CAP in the short term should support the transition to the new rural policy as described above: link payments to public services (like environmental and landscape management) but not to food security; ensure that payments to land managers stimulate good land management, develop EU policy for cultural heritage and landscapes, etc.