Agriculture MEP Alyn Smith has argued that the Common Agricultural Policy needs urgent, drastic reform lest it serve no-one but the interests of big supermarket multiples’ during his speech to the Nourish Scotland conference in Edinburgh.
The event, held today in the Botanic Gardens, saw citizens, farmers, agriculture experts and campaigners join forces to shake up our sluggish understanding of the Common Agricultural Policy.
“We are facing a global challenge of feeding a rising population. How we treat our food supply chain is of pivotal importance to how we exist as a species, and we have a broken supply chain in Scotland and in Europe. Without the CAP, around a third of Scottish farms would go bankrupt. But in my darker moments, I think the current Common Agricultural Policy is a convoluted way to subsidise the profits of big supermarket multiples.
“I’ve often said, call it ‘Agriculture’ and you get a special page in the papers and only the farmers show any interest. But call it ‘Food’ and everyone else realises how important it is.
“CAP simplification is work in progress, but we need also to be realistic about the limits of it. Despite our best efforts, the new CAP we negotiated in many respects is more complex than before, and there is a strong case for starting with a fresh piece of paper for the next reform rather than more tinkering with a system I think is simply broken.
“Right now, CAP doesn’t serve our farmers. It doesn’t serve our people. It serves the interests of large multiples while much of Scotland’s land goes fallow and inactive.
“CAP support is vital to Scottish agriculture, as it provides the support we need to guarantee a safe, secure and nutritious supply of local food produced to high quality and environmental standards, and so it must continue in some shape or form. The question is, how do we shape it so it brings the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people?
"I'm opening up the floor for anyone and everyone to get in touch with me and talk to me about what you think we can do to shake up the CAP. This isn't an issue for closed rooms in Brussels; it affects us all, and we all need to have a say."
Pete Ritchie, Director of Nourish, added:
“The Common Agricultural Policy is a colossal public policy intervention, using 39% of the EU budget and shaping the farming policies of Member States. It could drive improvements in public health, rural economies, and sustainable food and farming; but it doesn’t. And it won’t until our food system is governed democratically for the common good.”