ARC calls for a paradigm shift in agriculture and a rural renaissance

PRESS RELEASE The Agricultural and Rural Convention 2020 (ARC) will offer a statement from civil society on 20 July at the European Commission’s “CAP post-2013” conference.

ARC will urge the European decision-makers to initiate a paradigm shift in agriculture to meet environmental and social challenges and a rural renaissance.

ARC calls for a sustainable food production system, as a viable alternative to the dominant European model of intensive industrial farming. It urges the EU to honour its commitment to social, economic and territorial cohesion by launching an economic renaissance of rural areas.

ARC believes that a radical review of policies for both agriculture and rural development is needed. This view is prompted by the drastic loss of biodiversity, the gross disparities of income and quality of life between regions and people within Europe, the need for radical reduction of greenhouse gases in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, rising public concern about food quality and food security, and other imperatives.

ARC therefore calls for:

  • A paradigm shift in agriculture, from a dominant European model of intensive industrial farming and a centralised food industry to a sustainable and diversified pattern of regional and local production and processing of food, with closer links between farmers and consumers, high care for public health, and respecting the environment.
  • An economic renaissance of rural areas, building upon the strength and diversity of communities and cultures and the sustainable use of human and natural resources.

On food security, ARC believes that farmland should be kept in good heart and in sustainable cultivation throughout Europe, for long-term use in food production. Europe should produce high-quality food to the quantity that Europeans need, including all the basic commodities (such as animal feed) required for its production.

On food quality, ARC notes that obesity, diabetes and other ills reflect unhealthy diets which are offered to consumers with ever more processed and composed foods. It calls for widespread education about food, diet and the link to health, and for promotion of fresh, regional and local foods and of direct links between consumer and producer.

On added value to farm products, ARC calls for action to build fair partnership into the European food chain, and to enable farmers to achieve remunerative farm-gate prices. A major effort should also go into encouragement of added-value activity at local and regional level, through small and medium-sized enterprises, including those run by farmers themselves. Future policies should promote the strengthening and vitality of regional and local food systems.

On the rural economy, ARC notes that many rural regions, notably but not only in the new member states, have been gravely weakened by the collapse of collective farming, the centralisation of industry and commerce, out-migration of young people, and other forces. It calls on the EU to honour its commitment to social, economic and territorial cohesion by launching an economic renaissance of rural areas.

This should include support for small and family farms, for labour-intensive farming activity, for diversified enterprises both on and off the farm, and for new young entrants into farming. Policies should aim to strengthen the secondary and tertiary sectors, with particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, including added value to farm and forest products near to their origins, development of tourism, innovative use of information technology, generation of renewable energy, and the location of high-tech industries in high-quality rural settings.

Special attention should be given to economic regeneration in remote, mountainous or isolated areas, subsistence farming communities, and areas of rural poverty. Such areas are often called „peripheral? or „less favoured?, but may be central to the lives of those who live there and highly favoured in cultural, environmental or other terms. Policies for these areas should support rural communities in turning perceived disadvantages into economic and social advantages, focusing on sustaining social vitality, maintaining social services, diversifying the local economy, rewarding farmers (however small) for the public goods that they produce, and (where appropriate) accepting the value of informal economies.