|Vol.7, No.31, 2.8.01, p7
Farm lobbyists have sharply rebuked France and Germany for recommending a reform of the EU's agricultural subsidy regime which would make it obligatory for member states to divert funds to food safety and environmentally-sound production.
The French and German agriculture ministers, Jean Glavany and Renate Künast respectively, this week urged that Union farm policy should be radically reoriented to encourage a 'quality, rather than quantity' approach.
In a joint paper, the two advocated that an accord reached at the 1999 Berlin summit - allowing states to voluntarily direct a proportion of farm subisidies to 'rural development' such as environmental protection projects - should be amended to make their funding mandatory.
Britain's National Farmer's Union (NFU) has vowed to oppose this so-called modulation in farm aids. "Area and headage payments are compensation to all farmers for the loss of market support," said Bev Wilson from the NFU's Brussels office. "No UK farmer can afford to have that compensation reduced for any reason."
Paris and Berlin declared that their support for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was motivated by "the deep sense of helplessness that consumers feel as a result of recent food scares". But the NFU argues that the CAP has no implications for food safety. "There is no correlation between the intensity of production and food scares," added Wilson. "Foot-and-mouth disease affects the most extensive parts of UK agriculture - sheep and cattle farming. Ministers are misleading the voter and consumer if they attempt to justify change on food safety grounds, however much that change is justified on other grounds."
Although Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler has stressed that no changes to the CAP can be envisaged until after the budget review scheduled for 2006, the policy is coming in for a barrage of criticism. On Monday (30 July), UK Prime Minister Tony Blair denounced the CAP as a protectionist measure, hindering the liberalisation of world trade.
A spokesman for the French farmers association FNSEA said its leaders had not yet had a chance to study the Paris-Berlin communiqué as they are on holiday. He said, however, the organisation would have major concerns about any 'modulation' plans.
European Voice is to host a major conference on food safety in Brussels on 22 November.
Farm lobbyists have sharply rebuked France and Germany for recommending a reform of the EU's agricultural subsidy regime which would make it obligatory for Member States to divert funds to food safety and environmentally-sound production.
|Business and Industry