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Nadège Chambon

Nadège Chambon

D'origine ardéchoise, Nadège Chambon est diplômée des Instituts d'Etudes Politiques de Lyon et ...
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Agriculture et développement rural

Nadège Chambon on Valentin Zahrnt's "Greening the CAP, and pruning it too"

le 22 Octobre 2010 à 11:30
Article par Nadège Chambon
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Comment on Valentin Zahrnt's "Greening the CAP, and pruning it too" in Europe’s World, the independent Europe-wide policy journal. Onliy in English.



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Nadège Chambon on Valentin Zahrnt's "Greening the CAP, and pruning it too"

Autumn 2010 by Nadège ChambonRELATED ARTICLES: by Valentin Zahrnt


Sir,

Valentin Zahrnt identifies two main questions that need to be answered in the forthcoming CAP and EU budget reforms. First, how can agriculture help to address Europe’s environmental challenges? And second, how much public money should the CAP receive during the harshest period for EU finances in decades? While I agree that these are the key questions, several of his proposed solutions don’t address the main environmental issues.

One impression that must be corrected straight away is the idea that agriculture is costly to the public purse. The fact that the CAP accounts for 40% of the EU budget is not a sign that EU agricultural policy is expensive; it is a consequence of agriculture being the most integrated economic sector within the Union. This means that public spending on farming is very largely channelled through the CAP, rather than through member states’ own national budgets. Recent data ranks agriculture 11th in terms of public expenditure by sector, accounting for just 1.1% of total spending by member states and the European community combined. That is well behind social and healthcare spending, which took 55.6% of the total in 2006, education 11.3%, energy and transport 2.2% or even R&D with 1.5%. Thus the CAP budget should not be seen as "the enemy.” It is the most important tool available to the EU to respond to a wide range of environmental concerns – from climate change and biodiversity to food quality, water and soil issues, diversification of landscapes and carbon storage.

It may be true that the present CAP wastes public funds and sometimes harms the environment too, but deep-rooted reforms could correct these inefficiencies while at the same time strengthening agriculture’s ability to contribute to Europe’s environmental objectives. Farmers manage more than 50% of the land in Europe, and farming systems provide such essential public goods as environmental quality, food security and landscape protection. As Zarhnt rightly says, “the CAP’s objectives determine how much is spent on agriculture.” But it will take more than a cursory assessment of the CAP’s objectives in terms of delivering public goods before the right level of public funding for agriculture can be determined.

There is another issue related to the provision of public goods that Zarhnt ignores. Farmers are first and foremost providers of food. This exposes them to specific types of risk: price and production fluctuations, sanitary and phytosanitary hazards, policy-change adjustment costs and, increasingly, liability risks. Such a high level of risk requires a degree of stabilisation to keep the market functioning smoothly. This suggests the EU should at least maintain safety nets or other safeguards that can be activated without recourse to complex legislation or huge budget envelopes.

No one would disagree with the proposition that we have to define the means and instruments by which the CAP will deliver better environmental protection, but we should not forget, as Jean-Christophe Bureau and Louis-Pascal Mahé put it: “The central objective of EU farm policy should remain the promotion of competitive agriculture, able to feed the EU population at low cost and to be economically viable.” (CAP reform beyond 2013: An idea for a longer view, Notre Europe, 2008)

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