Reformed CAP must appeal to taxpayers – Ciolos
FARMERS will be required to deliver more public benefits in return for their single farm payment in the latest shake-up of EU farm policy, Europe’s agricultural chief has confirmed.
In an exclusive interview with Farmers Guardian, European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said food production remained the number one priority of the CAP. But he added more money must be directed towards public goods to show taxpayers that they are getting value for money.
Mr Ciolos, a keynote speaker at the Oxford Farming Conference next week and the man in charge of drawing up proposals to reform the CAP after 2013, said: “The CAP is not just for farmers, it is a policy for everybody – but using farmers as the means to provide public goods.
“We now have to reshape our policy so that taxpayers can understand better what the policy is doing for them.”
He said a more public facing policy was ‘vital’ to put him in a strong position to retain money in the CAP during EU budget negotiations with his fellow European Commissioners – particularly given the current economic climate and pressure on money from other departments.
The Commissioner, who admitted CAP reform was the biggest challenge in his career to date, went on to reassure farmers that direct payments, which currently make up 70 per cent of the CAP, should ‘certainly not’ be phased out.
But he said they must be redefined to be ‘more efficient and more effective’ with an ‘income support’ element and an element ‘for the provision of public goods not remunerated by the market’.
To that end he reiterated his plan to ‘green’ payments. “Environmental issues are a classic example of where policy incentives can influence farmers to make a production choice which may be less economically viable, but better for broader society because of the overall environmental benefit,” he said.
Mr Ciolos has also promised to tackle the system which allows large CAP payments to go to already wealthy farmers – a system heavily criticised by the general public.
The Commissioner confirmed his plan to cap large payments – ‘it makes sense to apply some form of limit’, he said.
He also made it clear that intervention measures would remain ‘important as a safety net’ for vulnerable farmers, adding ‘the market alone is not sufficient for something as strategically important as food production’.
“More than ever before, in the context of climate change and price volatility, we need to maintain a back-up for when the market fails,” he said.
The Commissioner will continue to discuss his ideas before delivering his formal proposal in the summer of 2011.
A full transcript of the Commissioner’s interview is available on the FG website.