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CAP and Agriculture Held in High Regard

by 5m Editor
1 April 2010, at 6:03am

EU - The Eurobarometer results of EU citizens' views towards the CAP have been published. A cursory glance indicates that the UK responses are broadly in line with the European results, possibly the biggest differences being in the appropriate levels of governance.

Key European Findings

An overwhelming majority (90 per cent) of Europeans regard agriculture and rural areas as important for the future. While European citizens continue to place importance on the subject of agriculture, most have limited knowledge about the CAP: about four in ten interviewees (41 per cent) have heard or read about the European Union agricultural and rural development policy. Awareness of the CAP, and precise understanding of it, is also relatively low and has not increased since 2006: more than half of those surveyed had not heard of the CAP (57 per cent).

There is an overall preference for the European level to manage a agricultural issues, particularly environmental protection (65 per cent), securing food supply (53 per cent) and ensuring that agricultural products are of good quality, healthy and safe (51 per cent). Although there is considerable variation in response according to the particular issue, and across Member States, the local or regional levels are not preferred for any of the issues measured.

According to the European public, the main priority for the CAP should be ensuring agricultural products that are of good quality, healthy and safe (59 per cent). Ensuring reasonable food prices (49 per cent), protecting the environment and ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers (both 41 per cent) are also given a high position on the public agenda.

The performance of the CAP receives both positive and negative evaluations from the European public. The CAP is perceived as performing fairly well when it comes to securing food supply in the EU, ensuring that agricultural products are of good quality, healthy and safe and favouring methods of organic farming. On the other hand, the policy is viewed as performing fairly badly when it comes to the protection of family type farms, ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers. In addition, negative ratings outweigh positive ones when respondents are asked about the CAP’s performance on reasonable food prices for consumers, protection of the environment and dealing with climate change and the development of rural areas while preserving the countryside. Apart from protecting the environment and family type farms, all objectives are rated more positively compared with EB68.2 (autumn 2007).

A majority of respondents (85 per cent or more) are supportive of the new objectives for agriculture and rural development, which include:

  • To preserve the countryside (93 per cent)
  • To help farmers to face the consequences of climate change (89 per cent)
  • To develop the economy in rural areas (89 per cent)
  • To distribute support to farmers in a more equitable way (88 per cent)
  • To link financial support farmers get with the compliance to certain rules regarding environmental protection, food safety and animal welfare (87 per cent)
  • To encourage farmers to produce what markets demand (85 per cent).

About half of respondents (46 per cent) think that agriculture has already made a major contribution in fighting climate change. Nonetheless, further action is called for in view of this. A large majority (82 per cent) agree that the EU needs to help farmers to change they way they work in order to fight climate change. A similarly large proportion (77 per cent) believes that agriculture will suffer strongly from the effects of climate change in the coming years. Also, most respondents (67 per cent) think that EU farmers need to change the way they work in order to fight climate change, even if that means that EU agriculture will be less competitive. The results suggest that Europeans are ready to pay their share to realise such measures. About six in ten respondents (58 per cent) are ready to pay 10 per cent more for agricultural products if they are produced in a way that does not increase climate change. Such support is remarkable, considering that almost two thirds (61 per cent) of the respondents believe that agriculture is not one of the major causes of climate change.

Supplying the population with healthy and safe food continues to be the main responsibility of farmers in society, according to respondents (56 per cent). Following this in perceived importance are the responsibilities of protecting the environment (25 per cent) and supplying the population with a diversity of quality products (24 per cent). There is a high level of public agreement that farmers should be encouraged to produce more organic products (84 per cent), to contribute to the production of renewable energy (83 per cent) and to take advantage of progress in biotechnology (77 per cent).

A large majority of EU citizens (83 per cent) are in favour of the EU continuing to support farmers’ income. Moreover, 68 per cent believe that the current budget for agriculture and rural development is either adequate or insufficient, which is a significant increase compared with EB68.2. Four in every ten respondents (39 per cent) would like the financial support to farmers to increase over the next ten years, which also is an increase (+10 per cent) compared with EB68.2.

Food safety continues to be a dominant issue in terms of information needs. Beyond food safety (51 per cent), there is a sizeable demand for more information on the environmental effects of farming (31 per cent) and the welfare of farm animals (23 per cent).

NFUS Welcomes Report

NFU Scotland President, Jim McLaren said, “The CAP has, for more than half a century, delivered a good deal for European farmers and consumers. George’s paper rightly points out that if the CAP is to continue to deliver after its scheduled reform in 2013, and help meet the twin challenges of food security and climate change, then the core budget must be preserved if it is to be effective. It should continue to be delivered centrally from Europe with George ruling out re-nationalisation.

“The paper recognises that food security remains the central challenge for EU agriculture and with population growth likely to prompt a doubling of world-wide food demand by 2050, Europe cannot afford to rely on other parts of the world to provide our food security. We must seek to ensure that a properly funded CAP continues to support farmers in the vital job of producing our food requirements.

“Here in Scotland, we are already wrestling with the thorny issues around how support from the CAP should be delivered to our farmers after 2013. The ongoing inquiry, chaired by Brian Pack, into the future delivery of support to Scottish agriculture, is expected to report to the Scottish Government later this year.

“This paper adds further to the Scottish debate with welcome acknowledgement that support should recognise activity, that there is a need for a period of transition after reform in 2013 and that there should be flexibility for Member States to direct support in a manner that reflects its priorities. While NFUS would agree with need for a period of transition after reform in 2013, we need to ensure that anomalies, such as the eligibility of new entrants for support payments, are addressed at the earliest opportunity.”

Further Reading

- You can view the UK findings (with comparisons to the EU results) by clicking here.