7 June 2002

CAP needs urgent and radical reform

By Philip Clarke Europe editor

MINIMUM standards of farming and a relocalisation of food production are among the key demands being made by Friends of the Earth in a new campaign launched this week.

Timed to coincide with next months mid-term review of Agenda 2000, the initiative calls for "urgent and radical" reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to deliver the kind of agriculture society wants.

"Until now, the CAP has only benefited big farmers and the multi-nationals," said Kees Kodde, campaign co-ordinator at the FoEs Dutch office. It had led to an export driven industry where productivity had increased, but at great cost to the environment, food quality, biodiversity, developing countries and farmers themselves.

"The vast majority of CAP funds continue to be spent without consideration to the ecological performance rendered by agriculture. Even farmers who do not comply with environmental law continue to receive CAP subsidies."

FoE is therefore calling for a single basic premium for all sustainably managed land to replace current headage and area payments. "Additional payments should be granted for higher standards of environmental performance," it says.

Launched simultaneously in 14 European countries, the campaign also calls for a reduction in the distance food travels to point of consumption, increased rural development funding and an end to export subsidies.

"The CAP must be reformed so that it rewards high quality production, supports a healthy rural economy and recognises the additional contribution that agriculture can make to landscape, tourism and encouraging wildlife," said Kevin Dunion of FoE in Scotland.

Those aims met with little complaint from farming representatives. "In broad terms there is a high degree of similarity with our own objectives, though we have concerns on some of the detail and question how realistic it is," said a spokeswoman for NFU Scotland.

In particular, she said rural development policies were too limited and did not cater for things such as waste management, biodiversity and animal welfare. These would be better supported by bolstering traditional farm supports and using national envelopes.

NFU Scotland also pointed out that cross compliance already features in the CAP, especially for less favoured area payments, which covers 80% of Scotland. &#42