Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good objective, wrong means

Choosing the right policy instrument to achieve your policy goal is of central importance in designing and implementing an effective agricultural policy as I argued in an article in West European Politics in 2010:
Policy instruments

I am very much of the view that environmental policy needs to be embedded in the CAP, but one has to do this in a way that achieves ecological objectives without unnecessarily undermining production.

The Commission's notion of a 'balanced' rotation seems sensible on the surface. After all, farmers rotate their crops for agronomic reasons that have been understood for centuries, at least in principle.

Monocultures of wheat and oilseed rape (canola) crops have been becoming more extensive in Europe and they can have a landscape impact, although personally I quite like the yellow of oilseed rape.

Part of the Commission's motivation seems to be an idea that rotation would cut the pesticide bill, but there are other ways of doing that. It could also disproportionately hit farmers on heavy soil who rely on wheat/wheat/rape rotations.

The proposals require farmers to grow at least three different crops, with none exceeding 70 per cent of the total farm area and the third not less than 5 per cent.

Not only is this meddling in business decisions, it also could hit small farms very hard as only those below 3 hectares are excluded. Member states with many small arable farms may have something to say about this.

In the meantime the Commission really needs to send this proposal back to its Daft Ideas Department and return to the drawing board.

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