2 June 1931

Fischler delays Agenda 2000 review in wake of US aid rise

By Philip Clarke

Europe editor

EU FARM commissioner, Franz Fischler, has delayed the mid-term review of Agenda 2000 CAP reforms while Brussels officials try to work out what impact the recent £45bn rise in US subsidies will have on world markets.

Originally time-tabled for June 19, proposals for further changes to the CAP will not now be revealed until July 10. Market reports, being prepared by commission staff, will have to be reworked to build in the likely effects of the US subsidies.

"I believe it would be rather risky for us to propose the mid-term review if we had no idea of the impact the US Farm Bill will have on European and world markets," said Dr Fischler.

But while he been openly critical of the Bill, describing it as "more a flunk bill than a farm bill" in a letter to the Financial Times this week, he said it was too soon to say whether it was illegal under WTO rules.

"The situation is that the US has lost credibility by doing the exact opposite of what it has been preaching for years," he said. "But it would be a fundamental error if we were to depart from the path of virtue." Instead, the EU should press on with the reforms started in 1992 and continued with Agenda 2000, while moving more money into rural development, he added.

This view was supported by vice-chairman of the European parliaments agriculture committee, Friedrich-Wilhelm Baringdorf. "The European commission should not postpone the mid-term review of the CAP," he said in a statement. "It needs to follow a proper EU agenda instead of being led by US farming policy."

The exact contents of the mid-term review proposals are still only the matter of speculation in Brussels. But measures to deal with the imbalance in the beef market and to make intervention for rye less attractive are expected. There is also a view that a further 5% cut in cereal intervention prices is on the cards, taking total reductions up to the 20% originally proposed in Agenda 2000. &#42