28 March 1997

CAP spending cuts and less intensive farming on horizon

SHARP falls in the common agricultural policy budget of £30bn (41.8bn ecus) are predicted by Breton farmer and EU consultant, Daniel Gueguen.

Speaking at a meeting of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists in London, he warned that farm spending would be cut to accommodate new member states from central and eastern Europe and to comply with commitments made to the World Trade Organisation.

Another important factor driving change would be Germanys unwillingness to continue its present level of budgetary contributions, added Mr Gueguen, a former secretary general of the European farmers union COPA.

Two CAP reforms, modulation and renationalisation, would be essential if the EU were to cut farm spending, he predicted. "Modulation (or capping) will certainly be adopted giving efficient producers the possibility to export at world market prices."

Also greater financial responsibility for CAP would be shouldered by individual member states. "Brussels will not be able to avoid some renationalisation of the CAP in order to cut its spending in the years ahead."

As part of the move towards lower CAP spending, Mr Gueguen predicted a strong move towards less intensive farming. "De-intensification systems will be encouraged by the use of incentives and penalties."

The EU would try to renegotiate its WTO commitments over the next four years, said Mr Gueguen. A particular focus of attention would be the acceptance of controversial new technologies such as genetic engineering.

"Many producers and people in the commission are pushing for protectionism regarding such issues as hormones in beef and genetically-modified organisms. And the EU has already been called to a world panel on hormones in meat.

"If we lose that case we might have to accept products from the US," said Mr Gueguen.

He believed European farmers unions had a key role to play in helping to find an EU consensus on controversial issues such as biotechnology. &#42

Daniel Guegen: Farm spending will be cut.