European History in the Making; CAP Reform Is the Last Chance Saloon for Europe's Farmers. NFU President Ben Gill Explains Why
Byline: Ben Gill
JUNE 2003 will go down in the history books as a critical month in the evolution of support for agriculture in Europe.
The current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)has its origins in the post-war era of the 1950s when food security was a key objective.
Productivity increases and the growing capability of countries outside Europe, with often lower standards and even lower production costs, to produce, store and transport goods thousands of miles have since challenged the central aims of the CAP.
The need for a major reform of the CAP - not the least the burden of bureaucratic paperwork that has grown with it - has never been clearer or more desperately needed.
So, when EU Commissioner Frans Fischler published his radical proposals at the start of the year,British farmers looked on with some degree of relief.
The central plank of these proposals is to break the link between production and subsidies.
And while there is much in the detail that causes us concern, the overall thrust of the reform moves in three critical directions: to dramatically simplify farm support arrangements; minimise the redistribution of support between sectors; and, crucially, to allow farmers and growers to focus on the market place,not just on production targets.
While the proposals were met initially with widespread opposition from many other member states, there is real hope that a settlement before the end of this month is now possible. …