The Common Agricultural Policy needs to be made fairer for farmers and the public, consumers from across Europe have claimed.
A consultation on the future of the CAP post-2013 revealed the public wants to see farmers paid to protect the environment and biodiversity, conserve the countryside and mitigate climate change.
They also want greater transparency in the food chain and fairer competition conditions between EU and imported products, while maintaining the current CAP budget.
The results of the consultation were announced at a “landmark conference” between industry officials across Europe in Brussels this week (19-20 July) to discuss the future of the CAP.
Speaking at the conference, European agriculture minister Dacian Ciolos said farmers should justify the support they were given by providing public goods.
He said the CAP needed greater legitimacy and become a policy for the whole of society, rather than just for producers.
Tom Hind, NFU chief economist, said while there was a consensus from the public to create strong European policy, there was “massive divergence” on what that policy should be.
He said the European Commission faced a real challenge in creating a policy that was not based on an outdated vision of agriculture, had a clear strategy for agriculture and tried to please the public.
“There’s a risk that Mr Ciolos will try to make the policy be all things to all people,” he said.
“It’s important that the policy is more transparent and more accountable to the public.
“But if you go too far you end up with a policy that’s no longer about supporting agriculture to one that’s about wider environmental policy.
“The environment has to be part of the discussion but there are real dangers in it as well.”
Mr Hind said the NFU would continue discussions with the Commission to ensure it took farming towards a more competitive, productive and market-orientated future.
The union wanted the CAP to help farming become less reliant on public support, he added.
The Commission is expected to release its recommendations for how the CAP should be reformed in November.