NATIONAL defense, the desire for a "balanced economy," the political strength of farmers, and fear of fluctuations in world prices and supplies of foodstuffs, combine to give agriculture a special status in the countries of Western Europe. Governments try to limit dependence on foreign food supplies. They use subsidies and guaranteed prices to keep up the level of the farmer's income. By tariffs and quotas they protect him from his competitors in other European countries or overseas.
As a result, barriers to trade in agricultural products are numerous and often intractable; prices of farm products vary widely from country to country; continued governmental intervention is needed to insure farmers the treatment they have been promised; European countries from which food is a major export depend heavily on the policies of importing countries; bulk purchasing by governments further complicates international trade. These and other factors put sizable obstacles in the way of progress toward a single market for Western European agriculture. This chapter describes these obstacles and goes on to discuss some of the efforts to bring about a greater degree of integration. Something has been done by removing quotas and reducing tariffs. Proposals for guaranteeing agricultural markets by a wide use of governmental purchasing have met with little response. Suggestions for special agreements to create a single market for particular farm products are still in a rather early stage of discussion.