IN the biggest response to any such exercise ever conducted by the EU Commission, 6,000 citizens submitted their thoughts on the future of the Common Agriculture Policy through the internet.
The good news for the industry is that respondents agree with those in earlier, wider EU surveys who said agriculture and rural areas are important for the EU’s future.
One wonders why the latest call for views was even necessary, because regular EU-barometer surveys include nearly 30,000 Europeans.
On the other hand, the EU has to be commended for involving citizens.
And people involved in the industry have to respect the determination of EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos to let everyone have their say on the CAP.
The 6,000 who sent their opinions through the internet are a very small voice in the total EU population of more than over 500 million.
However, they largely confirm the views expressed in last November’s EU-barometer survey of 26,761 citizens, and therefore provide useful guidance for the 27 governments and the EU institutions in their reform of the CAP for 2013.
The “middle ground” of the 6,000 respondents want food security for the EU; more exposure to the markets for the competitive and potentially competitive sectors of European agriculture; market intervention to be used as a risk and crisis-management tool; payment to farmers for public goods and services; protection for the environment and biodiversity; preservation and creation of rural jobs; adequate resources for rural development; a fairer CAP for small farmers, less-favoured regions, and new member states; transparency in the food chain, with a greater say for producers; fair competition between domestic and imported products; help in the fight against world hunger, and all this to be achieved without damaging developing countries.
Last November, 83% of EU citizens favoured continuing support for farmers’ income; 68% said the budget for agriculture and rural development was adequate or insufficient, and 40% wanted financial support to farmers to increase over the next 10 years.
There was an overall preference for agriculture to be managed at European rather than national level, reasonable food prices (49%), protecting the environment and ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers (both 41%) were supported.
Preserve the countryside, said 93%; help farmers face the consequences of climate change, said 89%. Develop the rural economy, said 89%.
Once again, the people have spoken. Perhaps now a few more of the perpetual mourners who have been hanging around for decades hoping for the funeral of the CAP will go away.
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