Thursday, May 24, 2007

Scrap CAP says Commons committee

The Common Agricultural Policy should be scrapped and replaced with a new rural policy for the European Union says the House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The report is a response to the Government's 'Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy' published in December 2005. I appeared before the committee: further details of the report can be found at: CAP

The report states, 'The objectives of the CAP have remained unchanged for the last 50 years and now an anachronism. For all its revolutionary rhetoric, the UK Government's "Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy" was ultimately a disappointing lost opportunity as it merely described an evolution of the existing policy, primarily motivated by budget savings, rather than presenting a truly revolutionary vision.'

I was critical of the Government's strategy and tactics in launching the Vision document. The report comments, 'The Government showed a naivety in believing that its Vision document could be its catalyst to a reform agenda when it was introduced so near to the end of its Presidency and without any programme in place to gain support for the British position. For British ideas to succeed, it is important that the UK adopts a more sophisticated approach to its agenda than when it launched its Vision document on an unsuspecting audience and without prior effort to prepare other farm ministers for its arrival.'

It further notes, 'Not only did this approach subsequently damage its prospects for Pillar 2 development, it may well have undermined the UK Government's ability to infuence the reform agenda in the future by antagonising the European Commission and the other EU member states.'

The report talks favourably of the idea of a bond scheme, but notes Commissioner Fischer Boel's argument that it would lead to the demise of cross-compliance. However, the bond is intended to replace and phase out SFP payments. Separate payments could still be made for public good provision by farmers linked to cross compliance.

The report is perhaps too optimistic about the forthcoming CAP 'health check' offering a means of moving the debate forward given the narrow way in which its purpose has been defined by Commissioner Fischer Boel.

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