Sunday, July 14, 2013

A paradigm shift in CAP?

Gwilym Jones of the European Commission set out a vigorous defence of the CAP reforms at the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum in London last week. He claimed that they represented a paradigm shift which would re-link farmers and citizens. It put farmers in greater control of their day-to-day economic choices.

Jones claimed that the greening measures were a game changer. They offered measures which protected soil, water and biodiversity (interestingly there was no reference to climate change.

One positive feature that Jones did draw attention to was that all payments to farms would be published, stating 'we have nothing to hide.' It remains to be seen what this move towards transparency means in practice and how accessible and reliable the data turns out to be.

Jones insisted that farming is different, asking what other industry faced exceptional weather events.

Chris Horseman of Agra Europe asked why decoupling had been put into reverse. Jones disagreed that this was the case, arguing that some sectors worked with very severe conditions, for example mountain areas. But this has always been the case and does not justify an extension of coupling.

CAP reform a dress rehearsal?

The CAP reform could simply be a dress rehearsal for a further reform, suggested David Baldock of the Institute for European Environmental Policy at a seminar of the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum in London last week. The reform could serve as a means of showing which issues we had to get serious about. The reform had been a rush, it didn't have a finished feel about it. This was a widespread perception in Europe. What was needed was a credible mid-term review.

What was good about the reform was that the public goods idea survived in the CAP. It also couldn't be a one size fits all policy. On the downside, there had been a loss of the commitment to transparency and simplicity. There was a theoretical possibility of reverse modulation.

On the greening measures, it was quite difficult to see what was going to change on permanent pastures. The Ecological Focus Areas had changed greatly from original proposal. The idea covered much less than had been originally envisaged. Cross-compliance entailed a softening of the regime in some directions. Protecting carbon rich soils, the most innovative idea, had been lost.

The last Mid-Term Review was in the Fischler reforms and, as Baldock noted, the then Commissioner had created a platform and had worked to create relationships with heads of government and ministers. My question would be whether anyone around today possesses Fischler's adroit skills.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Challenges remain for Lithuanian presidency

EU agriculture ministers will meet in Brussels for the first time under the Lithuanian Presidency on Monday (July 15) and for the first time since an agreement on most aspects of CAP reform for 2014-2020 was reached by the EU institutions, reports Agra Europe. Vilnius began work on July 1, after being passed the torch by Dublin, who garnered wide praise after largely concluding the CAP reform package. But the Lithuanian Presidency, in it’s maiden term in the position, will have to oversee certain parts of the reform that were still up for debate when the deal was reached last month.

As part of their mandate, the new presidency will need to seek progress on the remaining issues left out of the reform agreement, which include the ‘degressivity’ proposal, co-financing and rural development. They will need to seek a compromise with Parliament, which is irked by the Council’s resistance to negotiate on the positions taken by heads of government on the 2014-2020 ‘multiannual financial framework’ (MFF). MEPs maintain that it is their legal right to have an equal say under the Lisbon Treaty.

Lithuania continues to affirm that member states will not be willing to re-open negotiations on CAP reform with respect to the recently approved budget. Monday’s meeting of EU agriculture leaders should shed some light on what, if anything, the Council is willing to do to appease MEPs, Agra Europe predicts.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Why no capping?

George Monibot complains in The Guardian about the absence of capping or degressivity in the CAP reform deal: Monibot

The reason Britain and Germany opposed these proposals is that they have a lot of large farmers and agreeing to capping would disadvantage them and cut national receipts from the CAP. The more fundamental issue is whether the CAP is there to support the global competitiveness of EU agriculture or is meant to be a social policy for marginal farmers.

EU backs away from commodity speculation controls

It look as if the EU is going to back away from imposing limits on commodity speculation. Of course, not all commodities are agricultural, but according to consultancy ETFGI there are 111 agriculture-focused products with €2.8bn of assets. Within exchange traded funds about 30 per cent or $55.5bn of these assets include agricultural investments, according to data from Somo, the centre for research on multinational corporations.

Critics argue that current trading practices help to boost food price volatility. There is no proof that this is the case, but many believe that excessive trading in derivatives can accelerate bubbles and create heavy price peaks which disadvantage the individual consumer. The US has already adopted position limits for a number of core commodity futures and option contracts, including corn (maize) and wheat.

NGOs had been hoping that position limits would be imposed on commodities speculation under the EU's revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid II). Such limits would restrict the activities of fund management companies that continue to engage in soft commodity trading, a number having pulled out earlier in the year. Reputational damage was a major motive for quitting speculative trading.

However, the European Council wants to allow individual member states to set their own position limits. Christine Haigh of the World Development Movement argues that this would pit member states against each other in a race to the bottom. The UK and France are thought to be the most likely to put lenient position limits in place to allow current trading practice to continue as normal.

The Commission and Parliament continue to favour Europe-wide rules, so it remains to be seen what emerges from the trilogue process with a final decision expected by March 2014.