3 December 2001
Abolish all subsidies – MAFF ex-chief
By Alistair Driver
A FORMER head of the Ministry of Agriculture has called for the abolition of all farm subsidies which, he claims, distort the market for food.
In a report published on Monday (3 December), former permanent secretary Richard Packer says farming should be driven by the free market.
The document, A Policy for Agriculture: Ending state interference, was published by published by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank.
It is highly critical of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“Current agricultural policy is highly wasteful, produces high prices in the shops, costs a lot, fails farmers, is vastly bureaucratic and causes disputes with trading partners,” Sir Richard writes.
“The market is distorted where it should be free. Public expenditure on agricultural subsidies is high, where it should be close to non-existent.
“Prices are kept high by Government intervention. Despite all this, farm incomes are at the lowest level for 60 years.”
Sir Richard believes all subsidies should be eliminated in a move to ensure that the free market and economic efficiency underpin agricultural policy.
There should also be continued limited support for programmes designed to protect the environment, he adds.
But agricultural policy should not be concerned with establishing farm incomes, setting farm size or developing consumer-friendly policies.
All of these should be determined by the free market, the report argues.
Sir Richard says World Trade Organisation moves to free up global trade should be supported and Brussels should attack the costs of the CAP.
Farming should be treated the same as any other industry, he adds.
“Only then will consumer prices fall, public expenditure on agriculture decrease; and eventually farm incomes rise.”