Monday, October 27, 2008

Buckwell expresses doubts about SFP and pillars

Allan Buckwell expresses doubts about the efficacy of the Single Farm Payment in his interview with Agra Focus (see below). He comments, 'It is a very simplistic stablization measure and the distribution of the payments is a big odd.'

Later in the interview, he explains, 'I was never really a big fan of the Single Farm Payment. It was an absolutely necessary step to unhook support from prices ... When you look at the payments per head or per hectare or per annual work unit by Member State, there is a variation of about 3-50 fold from the highest to the lowest.'

He also expresses doubts about the two pillar distinction which has been regarded, perhaps too uncritically, as a central plank of the recent development of the CAP in order to increase spending on the 'multifunctional' or public goods aspects of agriculture. He notes, 'The distinction between the two pillars served a purpose. If it's creating an obstacle to the development of a better policy, then let's scrap it.'

He comments, 'There is little doubt that Pillar 2 is becoming unpopular. It is unpopular with farmers: many farmers in many countries say they cannot access the schemes that are available. They see it as bureaucratic, and also complain that money is leaking away to others. The bureaucrats and the administration say that it is a complex system with very high administrative costs and co-financing puts off Member States from doing more of it.'

He argues that co-financing is the key issue. If co-financing rules are stopping sensible reform, they should be changed. It might be better to co-finance everything with the member state contribution related to the national income per head. What is needed, he argues, is an explicit debate about the underlying principle rather than about 'funny little new programmes.'

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