The common agricultural policy of the EU has to better respond to the expectations of the society, if it is not to lose its credibility, European Farm Commissioner Dacian Cioloş warned when presenting his proposals on CAP reform to MEPs 18 November. Members of Parliament's agriculture committee broadly supported the plan to strengthen competitiveness, while focusing on sustainability.
Having to choose between competitiveness and sustainability is a false dilemma, Mr Cioloş said, explaining that the objective of the reform is to broaden the CAP and allow it to better focus not just on food production but also on management of natural resources. "Healthy, quality food, sustainable development, fairness for farmers big and small - this is what society expects. We have public financial support for CAP, now we have to justify it."
Committee Chair Paolo de Castro said CAP is the most important of EU policies, under the Lisbon treaty the EP has gained a strengthened role in this area.
Small farms should not be left behind
German MEP Albert Dess (EPP) said "we have to make sure the CAP money goes to productive investment and not administrative expenditure; food imports: environmental, consumer, animal welfare and food safety standards have to be respected."
Socialist MEP Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos noted that only real, active farmers should get CAP funds, small farms should not be left behind when funds are distributed. He also said more clarity is needed on what are active farmers and small farms.
Italian Member Lorenzo Fontana (EFD) agreed saying that small farms should be supported. He raised concerns about food imports: not respecting the same quality criteria giving them an unfair competitive advantage over European farmers.
Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL) said EU farmers need protective mechanisms. An agreement to import beef from South America could be a catastrophe for some regions, he said.
"Every time we try to simplify CAP, we create more bureaucracy"
Liberal MEP George Lyon (ALDE): said sustainability has to be at the heart of the reform, "but still we must make sure that we don't end with uncompetitive agriculture".
Martin Hausling (Greens/EFA) called for a cap on payments, which would favour smaller farmers. He also said to be socially acceptable farming must be greener. "If farmers receive payments, they have to develop and protect biodiversity."
However, James Nicholson (ECR) said the focus should be on the CAP, not social or environment policy. "It seems every time we try to simplify CAP, we create more bureaucracy."
The Commission will propose more detailed legislation in 2011.