SUBSIDIES DO more damage to farmers than good, according to Leonard Edwards, Canada‘s deputy agriculture minister, speaking at the 59th Oxford Farming Conference.

In a diplomatic and gently worded speech that was well received by delegates, he called CAP reform “very, very positive”, but urged the EU to reduce their farm support budgets.

“Much of the subsidy provided gets capitalized into the value of land, thereby increasing production costs and perpetuating a cycle of dependence on the part of farmers,” said Mr Edwards.

“As a result, European governments will continue to devote large amounts of resources to perpetuating a tradition of large income support programs, reducing resources available to address the key issues facing farmers in the future.”

As an illustration, he said that the elimination of some grain transportation payments had given Canadian livestock farmers a huge boost.

But he also admitted that two bad years in Canada had left the average farmer‘s income in the red, and described a mounting sense of crisis among producers.

He called for the EU to support an agreement at the World Trade Organisation that would take market liberalization beyond the recent reform of the CAP.

But this did not prevent him from defending the Canadian Wheat Board from accusations of protectionism, saying that it only concerned domestic marketing, and not the export market.

Some delegates criticized this stance. One who wished to remain anonymous described the CWB as “an anti-WTO cartel”.