Because there is no co-decision on CAP 'guarantee' expenditure matters, something that would have been tackled by the failed EU treaty, the role of the European Parliament in farm reform is usually relatively limited compared to other areas of EU policy.
However, the Parliament may be in a position to block progress on the sugar reform, enabling it to extract further concessions from the Commission. The Council cannot legally adopt CAP legislation until the MEPs have delivered an opinion on the proposal - but there is no obligation to take their views into account. One mechanism that the Parliament does have to protest over proposals it opposes is to delay delivery of the necessary opinion, or to threaten not to deliver it all.
Commissioner Fischer Boel has responded to the Commission's rapporteur on the sugar reform dossier, Jean-Claude Fruteau. She has ruled out one main demand, a compensation level to sugar beet farmers increased from 60% to 80%. Her view is that it is in line with what has been offered in other reformed sectors and any more would be too generous.
She was, however, prepared to take a look again at the proposed sugar restructuring fund which Fruteau described as ungenerous. She also tried to reassure MEPs that the lower internal EU price for sugar would give third countries less incentive to engage in fraud through so-called triangular imports. This is where countries re-export imported sugar claiming that it is their own produce. She stated that if a particular country failed to observe the rules, or if sugar imports were causing serious disturbance to the EU market (shades of the recent Mandelson intervention on Chinese textiles), the EU reserved the right to withdraw tariff preferences.
Fischer Boel and the UK presidency stress that a decision on sugar reform is needed in possible, both to help farmers make their planting plans for next year and also to prevent a row about sugar derailing the agricultural talks at the Hong Kong WTO ministerial in December.