ARC calls for courage by the Commission for the future of the CAP

PRESS RELEASE The Agricultural and Rural Convention 2020 (ARC) has today submitted to the European Commission and Parliament its proposals for a radical review of policies for agriculture and rural development*; and has called upon the Commission to be courageous in pursuing its vision for the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.

ARC calls for a new European Food, Agriculture and Rural Policy, with objectives which go beyond those stated in the Treaty of Rome. These objectives would embrace food security, food quality and public health as well as sustainable standards in agriculture, fair income for farmers,protection of the environment, mitigation of climate change, strengthening of the rural economy, and the well-being of rural communities.

ARC proposes that this Policy should be implemented through two funds – the European Agricultural Fund focused on food and farming; and the European Rural Fund, focused on the wider rural economy and territorial development.

ARC’s proposals for agriculture centre on a key demand: sustainable farming everywhere. The current mainstream system of agriculture in the EU is inherently unsustainable. ARC calls for a paradigm shift from industrialised agriculture towards sustainable farming everywhere in the EU, which builds on the regional and local diversity of farming and economies, makes far lighter use of non-renewable resources, respects animal welfare, puts good agronomic sense and agro-ecological innovation at the heart of farming decisions, and achieves a wide range of positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.

As to rural development, ARC also highlights the need for a Rural Renaissance, building upon the strength and diversity of communities, cultures and resources, linked effectively to regional development and honouring the EU’s commitment to social, economic and territorial cohesion. This renaissance can make a major cumulative contribution to the goals of EU 2020, by finding new sources of prosperity and creating new jobs.

ARC cautiously welcomes the Commission’s Communication

ARC welcomes the tone of the Commission’s document. Commissioner Ciolo? launched this year a wide public consultation, and he has clearly heard the resulting call from European citizens for a more sustainable and inclusive policy, reflecting public concern for food quality, protection of environment, mitigation of climate change, support for small farmers, strengthening of local economies, and greater equity in the use of precious EU funds.

ARC is glad to see that these public concerns are indeed reflected in the Commission’s Communication. We welcome in particular the proposals for :

  • support to sustainable farming, including in areas affected by natural handicaps
  • change in farm support systems towards greater emphasis on environmental and other public benefits
  • a mandatory ‘greening’ component of direct payments by supporting environmental measures applicable across the whole of the EU territory
  • greater equity in distribution of farm supports, with a cap in the amount paid to any one farm
  • specific support for small farmers
  • diversification of rural economies, including new sectors such as renewable energy
  • recognition of the role of local markets and of the need for links between urban and rural areas
  • measures to ensure high quality and wide choice in food supplies, including links to local products and to health
  • improved instruments to ensure the good functioning of the food chain and to strengthen the position of farmers within that chain
  • a common strategic framework for EU funds which can benefit rural areas.

ARC notes that many of the Commission’s proposals are stated in rather general, end even opaque, language. We trust that the next phase of work will see a courageous stance and progressive sharpening of the ideas. ARC intends to contribute vigorously to the consultation process in the period up to the publication of the Commission’s legislative proposals in mid-2011. We expect to endorse the more radical options stated by the Commission. We will urge greater emphasis on rural development, notably in areas affected by narrow economies, ageing population, subsistence farming or high concentrations of poverty. We call for a more considered approach to food supply management,trade, aid and development, in order to offer a fair deal to farmers both in the EU and in developing countries.

* The ARC Communication of Civil Society to the European Union on the Future of Agriculture and Rural Policies, which was today submitted to :

  • Dacian Ciolo?, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Paolo de Castro, Chairmen of the Committee on Agriculture qnd Rural Development, European Parliament
  • Mercedes Bresso, President, Committee of Regions
  • Staffan Nilsson, President, European Economic and Social Committee.