OFC 2011: Spelman calls to abolish subsidies
CAROLINE Spelman today (Wednesday, January 5), outlined her desire for a radical shift away from direct farm payments under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.
Addressing the Oxford Farming Conference, the Defra Secretary described the policy in its current form as ‘morally wrong’ and argued that rising food prices are providing the opportunity to plan for the abolition of subsidies.
She urged the European Commission to be ‘more ambitious’ with its plans for a new policy from 2014 than its initial ideas, published in November, for a ‘greening’ of the policy suggest.
In particular, Mrs Spelman signalled her intention to push during ongoing reform negotiations for a reduction in direct farming subsidies and greater rewards for the environmental work and other public goods delivered by farmers. This, she said, should be achieved by shifting resources from Pillar 1 of the policy to Pillar 2.
“We need to make the new CAP fundamentally different,” she told the conference.
“It must be about the new challenges of achieving global food security and tackling and adapting to a changing climate.
“Now is the time to make very significant progress towards reducing our reliance on direct payments. Rising global demand for food and rising food prices make it possible to reduce subsidies and plan for their abolition.
“Our taxpayers have every right to expect other public goods for the subsidies they pay.”
She claimed the CAP ‘continues to distort trade by maintaining high EU prices’, giving rise to high import tariffs and the use of export subsidies to clear market surpluses.
“All of which undercuts production in developing countries. This is morally wrong,” she said.
“To continue as we are threatens to snuff out the transition we need towards a market that can sustain EU agriculture in the future.”
Mrs Spelman expressed her intention to work with other G20 Agriculture Ministers to put an end to export bans, such as the grain export ban in Russia last summer.
She also revealed a change in the Government’s approach to food and farming, with more power being handed to local organisations and local people in a ‘classic example of what we mean by Big Society’.
With Responsibility and Cost Sharing for animal health seemingly in mind, she said: “We want to see a greater degree of trust and collaboration when developing and delivering policy. This will allow you as an industry to shape your own destiny.”
CAP reform will be a recurrent theme during the two-day flagship farming conference, which will also hear from other figures with key roles in the process.
Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon, who has published an influential report on CAP reform, will follow Mrs Spelman on the platform today, while EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş will close the conference on Thursday afternoon.