Public opinion of CAP debated in Brussels

EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos has said he believes the CAP is not just for farmers, but for taxpayers and consumers too.

Speaking ahead of the opening of a two-day conference about CAP reform in Brussels, Mr Ciolos said interest in the CAP went wider than just food producers.

This was shown by the public debate on CAP reform which had drawn more than 6000 responses in two months – the biggest response to any exercise of this kind ever conducted by the EU Commission, he said.

“This shows that people feel strongly about the CAP, and the responses have illustrated that our policy is not “only” about food production, but also about the provision of broader public goods.

“This reiterates my fundamental belief that the CAP is not just for farmers, it is for all EU citizens, as taxpayers and consumers.”

The commission’s public debate on the future of the CAP ran from 12 April – 11 June 2010 and asked for responses from the general public to four fundamental questions.

These were: Why do we need a common agricultural policy, what do citizens expect from agriculture, why reform the CAP and what tools do we need for the CAP of tomorrow?

The findings of the public debate will help shape the Commission’s draft policy paper on the future of the CAP, due for publication in November 2010.

The summary report on the debate said was hard to draw conclusions from the array of views received. However, from the submissions 12 key themes had been identified which the CAP should follow. 

These themes represented the views of the middle ground of respondents – some people wanted to go further, others less so, it said,

The main themes are as follows:

* Take a strategic approach to CAP reform. Go for total, not partial, solutions taking account of CAP challenges on the one hand and the interplay between the CAP and other internal and external EU policies on the other hand;
* Ensure that the CAP guarantees food security for the EU, using a number of tools to achieve this aim;
* Continue to push the competitive and potentially competitive sectors of European agriculture towards operating in a market context, giving more importance to innovation and dissemination of research;
* Transform market intervention into a modern risk- and crisis-management tool;
* Recognise that the market cannot (or will not) pay for the provision of public goods and benefits. This is where public action has to offset market failure;
* Bear in mind that the correct payment to farmers for the delivery of public goods and services will be a key element in a reformed CAP;
* Protect the environment and biodiversity, conserve the countryside, sustain the rural economy and preserve/create rural jobs, mitigate climate change;
* Rethink the structure of the two support pillars and clarify the relationship between them; make adequate resources available for successful rural development;
* Implement a fairer CAP – fairer to small farmers, to less-favoured regions, to new member states;
* Introduce transparency along the food chain, with a greater say for producers;
* Create fair competition conditions between domestic and imported products;
* Avoid damaging the economies or food production capacities of developing countries; help in the fight against world hunger.