19 October 1998
European farm ministers discuss CAP reform

By FWi staff

EUROPEAN Union farm ministers meeting in Luxembourg this week will discuss the proposed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

But European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler could find himself with a battle on his hands if he is to make progress with his reform plans.

Mr Fischler could face difficulties pushing through the reforms in the current poor economic climate, according to the Financial Times.

Plans by France to reform its own agricultural system independently could also complicate Mr Fischlers proposals and the absence of a German farm minister could also complicate matters, the newspaper says.

The French reforms aim to protect the role of farmers in the rural community and ensure agriculture incomes are protected.

The new French “law of agricultural orientation” treats farmers as guardians of Frances rural fabric rather than simply as food producers.

Under the policy, farmers would undertake to respect the environment and ensure that food met the increasingly tough demands of customers.

In return, the French farmers would receive state subsidies guaranteeing a minimum income.

But the changes are against the interests of large-scale, capital intensive farmers in other EU countries and hostile to Brussels plans to cut subsidies.

The absence of the German minister – because of the recent German elections – means any decision on the proposed reform package may have to wait until the next meeting in November.

Agreement must be made by next March and the FT suggests that Mr Fischler might attempt to present farm ministers with little or no choice but to push the reforms through.