A STRONG Common Agricultural Policy is needed in the future to strengthen the economic role that farmers play in providing food and services to 500 million EU consumers.
That’s what Padraig Walshe, president of Copa, the European farmers union, told the European Commission in Brussels yesterday.
He said a strong CAP is needed to help farmers cope with increasingly costly EU regulations and price volatility.
Mr Walshe was speaking at a conference hosted by the Commission on the future CAP.
He said the Commission is greening the CAP and imposing an increasing number of environmental and food safety regulations on EU farmers’ operations.
At the same time, it is opening trade talks with the Mercosur group of South American countries which do not have to follow these high standards.
“Yet, this would cause further deforestation in these countries as well as increase unemployment in the rural areas of the EU,” he said, adding that farmers are in a critical situation with a big 12% income drop seen last year. Price volatility is on the increase. The EU has offered to cut farm tariffs by an average 60% in the Doha round of world trade talks, he said.
Now, the Commission is preparing to offer yet further preferential access to the EU’s biggest competitor Brazil, within the trade talks with Mercosu, where growth promoters and pesticides, banned in the EU, are allowed.
“To make matters worse, we hear some people proposing that EU farmers be squeezed still further in the future, by imposing more costly regulations and obligations on them and by cutting CAP support further. This is absurd. If support was cut, EU farming would become in fact more intensive,” he said.
Paolo Bruni, president of Cogeca, the European umbrella body for agri co-ops, warned that the 28 million jobs which agriculture and the agri-food sector provides in rural areas must not be endangered.
“If production was not economically viable, many regions of the EU would face land abandonment. This could destroy huge investments that farmers and their co-operatives have put into the sector,” he said.
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