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Moving Ahead On New-look, Still-costly Farming

  • March 30th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

belgium-fram-reduced.jpgPlans for moving out of production-based agricultural support to direct payments and regional development schemes have been taken one step further – amid evidence of strong public support.

TIDYING UP THE RULES

The Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, announced (29.3.07) that changes were to be implemented, to make “cross compliance” work well.

“Cross compliance” is a keystone of drect assistance, whereby farmers need to demonstrate best practice in fields like property management or animal welfare, to qualify for support.

Hastening to deny the regulatiions would be “watered down”, she said new changes would ease up on farmers for the sake of flexibility.

For example there would be warnings of inspections, and a “certain level of tolerance in minor cases of non-compliance”.

One instance given: being caught running an “untidy farm” would not cause the owner to miss out on a grant.

The Commissioner said the recent adjustments “take into account experience gained so far to make the system work better” for all parties.

BETTER OFF DOWN ON THE FARM

Increased real value of subsidies has been named a contributing factor to a good improvement in incomes for agricultural workers in Europe.

Figures just released (29.3.07) for 2005-6 show an average rise of 3.8%, high in some places, e.g. over 9% in the Netherlands, and slipping in others – actually dropping slightly in a few countries including Ireland.

Other contributing economic factors listed by the European Commission: nearly stable producer prices, a small decrease in costs, and slight decrease in depreciation.

PUBLIC LOVE IT, THEY SAY

Results of a public survey have been announced (29.3.07) showing widespread satisfaction with the way that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of Europe has been changed.

The poll, which follows standard “Eurobarometer” methods and should be considered very reliable, shows that many Europeans still don’t know what the CAP is, but they approve of changes that they are hearing about, in terms of the way agriculture is supported and run.

It appears to be no disincentive that taxpayer support for farming is to remain close to current levels for some years to come, taking up some 40% of the total EC budget.

The summary of the results from the European Commission:

  • Most clearly, an overwhelming majority of European citizens support the ‘cross-compliance’ principle, whereby farmers face a reduction in payments if they fail to meet environmental, animal welfare or food safety standards. Over 8 out of 10 people support such measures, with the proportion saying these are justified between 83% and 86% depending on the specific standards in question.
  • Linked to this, the public has reacted favourably towards changes in the way in which farmers receive support. Almost 5 times as many think that giving more funding to rural development, as well paying farmers directly instead of subsidising their products are positive developments (49%) compared to those who think they are negative (11%). The remainder of the poll offered a neutral opinion or no answer.
  • There is also distinct evidence of views on the future direction of agricultural policy, with the public envisioning agriculture and the rural areas continuing to play a central role in the EU: Almost 9 in every 10 (88%) say that these are key issues for the future of Europe.
  • This is reflected in opinions on the proportion of the EU budget devoted to the CAP, which is currently around 40%. Almost 6 in 10 (58%) believe that this should either stay the same or increase in years to come, compared to a figure of just 17% who think this should decrease.

More specifically, the factors people believe the EU should prioritise within agricultural policy are:
• Ensuring farmers supply them with healthy and safe food (mentioned by 41%)
• Ensuring both farmers (37%) and consumers (35%) get a fair deal in the market
• Respect for the environment (33%) and the welfare of farm animals (27%)

  • The CAP is currently perceived as fulfilling its role well, with a good share of favourable ratings on the supply of healthy/safe food environmental respect and animal welfare.

FOOTNOTE: With animal welfare practices now a central part of farm regulation, care for animals is also resonating with consumers in another way: Another poll has shown that citizens in Europe are prepared to pay more for products if they can k now they are made in an animal-friendly way. They placed animal welfare high in importance in their consumer choices, at point eight on a ten-point scale. They thought food produced according to a high welfare standard was likely to be of better quality.

Reference: European Commission, Media releases, 29.3.07: IP/07/433, IP/07/440, IP/07/398

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