Saturday, December 23, 2006

Seasonal greetings to our readers


This picture of a somewhat post modernist Christmas tree that I took in Vilnius, Lithuania recently is suitably bleak for a CAP blog

It's been a pretty mixed year for those of us who would like to see a reformed Common Rural Policy delivering real economic benefits to deprived areas in the countryside and promoting environmental goals. The Pillar 2 budget is much smaller than we would have hoped for.

The Doha Round is suspended and it is uncertain whether an agreement can be reached. The EU may then pull back from its commitment to phase out export subsidies which would deliver real benefits to farmers in the Global South. It would also remove what has been the most powerful pressure for CAP reform. In the States, it looks as if we are going to get another Farm Bill that will ensure that most of the benefits go to corporate farmers growing particular commodities.

Some hope that the new transparency about who gets what from the CAP will exert pressure for reform as the public becomes aware that most of the money goes to large-scale commercial farmers. However, Britain and Germany are likely to resist any cap on subsidies. Public pressure on these matters tend to not to be maintained and is confused by the complexity of the CAP and misleading public messages.

In this respect it was alarming to see the BBC's respected environmental correspondent, Sarah Mukherjee, for whom I have a great deal of time, making a broadcast on Radio 5 recently which contained a number of basic errors about the dairy sector and appeared to be an unquestioning acceptance of a NFU press release. The dairy sector in the UK does have real problems, but the broadcast gave a soft treatment to the retailers and their market power.

Our friends at the farmsubsidy.org network are organising a conference on transparency in the CAP in Budapest at the end of January which unfortunately conflicts with other commitments that I have. However, it looks very interesting and further information can be found here:
Budapest

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