Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why CAP reform happened

The latest Journal of Common Market Studies (vol.47, 2, March 2009) contains an important article exploring the determinants of CAP reform. It is written by Alan Swinbank, a distinguished agricultural economist and a leading proponent of reform and Arlindo Cunha who was chair of the Agriculture Council in 1992 at the time of the MacSharry reform.

They have used a particular method, the Delphi technique, to survey a range of key influentials including Ray MacSharry and Franz Fischler. It allows them to analyse how the drivers of reform have changed over time through the 1992, 1999 and 2003 reforms.

Among the key findings were:
1. The Agriculture Commissioner has a key entreprenurial role (as I argued in my 1997 book on the CAP, 'the Commissioner makes a difference'
2. International trade negotiations were a major driver of reform (in this case providing confirmation of a widely held view)
3. Pressures from environmental groups, and from the media and public opinion, were identified as of growing importance, from a low base in 1992 to real significance in 2003. By contrast, farmers' organisations, the food processing indsutries, consumers and academics were judged to have had little influence on the reform process.

The European Parliament was seen as being of little influence in the reform process. Pressures from the European Council and the finance ministers in ECOFIN were seen to be more important in promoting the reform agenda than the Farm Council. Views on the role of the Farm Council were more divergent than almost any other subject covered in the survey. Some thought it had been conservative for a long time, running behind events, others took the view that it softened the Commission position.

The need for a better relationship between agriculture and the environment was seen as of little importance in 1992 but became particularly important in 2003. The need to find more funds for rural development also became important in 1999 and 2003. Ensuring the international competitiveness of agriculture also showed an increasing importance over the three reforms. Consumer concerns about food safety also became more important over time, but the importance of the 'European Model of Agriculture' seems to have peaked in the Agenda 2000 discussions when it was first presented.

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