A New Citizens’ CAP say Nourish Scotland

By Pete Richie (Nourish Scotland)

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photo by Frank Winkler
photo by Frank Winkler

The refugee crisis in Europe has dominated the news agenda in recent weeks, just as the Greek financial crisis did for the first half of 2015 – and next year it will be the in-out referendum. In recent weeks, the odds have shortened suddenly on the UK voting to leave the EU, with a narrower gap in polling than between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for most of the Scottish referendum campaign.

To date, the debate has been about big ideas like ‘sovereignty’ and has not touched on second order issues such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This will change. The argument will be made that we are paying extra for our food because we are subsidising farmers in other EU countries, and that we could do a better job ourselves: and that we should put our fishermen first. So this is a good time to take a look at the CAP. Is it on balance a positive element in the wider European project or is it an example of what’s wrong with the EU? If we do leave, and start designing from scratch, what would domestic agricultural policy look like? And could those fresh ideas be used to make a better CAP if we stay?

Nourish wants to see a fundamental rethink of the CAP. It makes sense, whether we see Europe as simply a ‘common market’ or a broader political project, to have a common policy framework which creates a fair internal market while supporting high environmental and animal welfare standards.

However, the justification for direct payments is unclear. The European Commission argues that “farmers receive annual payments to help stabilise farm revenues in the face of volatile market prices, unpredictable weather conditions and variable input costs. To benefit from these payments, farmers must respect rules and practices concerning environmental standards, animal welfare, food safety and traceability. Many of these requirements are stricter than those facing our global competitors. This is also what EU consumers and taxpayers want from the CAP. To avoid distorting markets, payments are not based on how much a farmer produces, but on how much land he uses and how he uses it.”

However ‘stabilising farm revenues’ suggests that support payments are for bad times, but they are in fact a level annual payment. It’s not clear why farmers should be paid to obey rules on animal welfare and environmental standards.

And it’s not clear why farmers with more land should get larger annual payments. Nourish agrees that significant public support for farming in Scotland is needed. We want to see more farmers, not fewer, and for Scotland to eat more of what we produce, and produce more of what we eat

landscape-601230_1920
photo by doloban

We want to see a ‘new deal’ between the Scottish public and Scottish farmers and growers, where public support delivers public benefit – for the environment, for animal welfare, for public health, and for communities. Short food chains, with more of the retail price going to the primary producer and closer connections between producers and consumers, are a key element in this new deal.

We expect a major shift towards organic and agroecological farming methods – farming with nature. We also want a clearer vision for sustainable rural development in Scotland, with the CAP contributing to a repopulated, low carbon rural Scotland.

While there are many good schemes in Scotland’s rural development plan, most of the limited money is directed at farming and forestry. Nourish wants to see ambitious projects for rural development, including housing, renewable energy, right size industry, and long-term partnerships between communities and land managers. The Land Reform Review Group called in its 2014 report for the land of Scotland to be used ‘in the public interest and for the common good’ – and with most of Scotland’s dry land being used for agriculture this concept should underpin our agricultural policy.

We should be willing to draw on other public policy analogies too. GPs operate as private businesses while being paid to deliver public goods. Social enterprises – a growing part of the Scottish economy and comparable in scale to farming – rely on a similar mix of income from grants and income from trading to deliver a range of socially valued goods and services. Shifting the CAP takes time – it will be 2019 before farm subsidies in Scotland stop reflecting the number of sheep a farmer owned in the year 2000 – so we need to get started now on discussing the CAP post 2020.

In the coming debate on the EU referendum, few people will argue that the CAP in its present form is the poster child for the European project. But UK proposals for ‘reform’ in the EU prior to the referendum need to make things better, not worse. For all its faults, the CAP shapes the food and farming system for 500 million people. It can be part of the solution for climate change, for biodiversity and for sustainable rural development.

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 192 Articles
Dr. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     A propos d'Oliver Moore Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cœur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web.  À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire. Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.