European agriculture should be open to international competition without reliance on subsidies or protectionism with in the 10 to 15 years; it was claimed on Friday 2 December.

DEFRA secretary of state Margaret Beckett and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown presented a joint statement on proposals for what a reformed CAP should look like in 15 years time.

Entitled a Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy Messes Beckett and Brown said:

“The paper which we have published today contributes to the debate already underway on how to achieve a sustainable future for agriculture and helps answer those who have asked what the UK Government means when it calls for further CAP reform.

“Through the modernised European agriculture policy set out in this paper, we believe we can achieve the following goals:”

• Society can contribute less financially to agriculture but reap much greater benefits.

• Consumers can have a secure supply of cheaper, safe, high quality food.

• Developing countries can achieve significant economic growth.

• Farmers in Europe can become more competitive and market focused.

• The rural environment can be improved.

• Rural development can be boosted, particularly in some of the poorest parts of the European Union.

The document explains many of the negative effects that the CAP has on society such as higher food prices and the absorption of EU funds that could be redistributed to poorer countries.

The economic and financial costs are explained as:

• Equivalent to a value added tax on food of 15%
• Removing market price support would bring a one-off reduction in inflation of 0.9%
• Many of the benefits accrue to the landowner and in many cases not benefiting the farmer in their capacity of farmers

The CAP, they argue, is further out dated by the needs of the new member states which would prefer to see funds directed at restructuring and improving infrastructure as opposed to supporting farmers.