Smith Defends Food Production In CAP Debate

13 April 2010
Active food production, and nothing else, must be at the heart of any future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and all else is secondary, argued Alyn Smith MEP during a debate on the future of the CAP yesterday in the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee. 

Smith also condemned "woolly and muddled thinking" which risks putting too many policy aims and objectives into the so-called "multifunctional CAP" and argued for a tightly focused CAP with ensuring Europe's food security at its very core.

Mr Smith also stressed the vital importance of the highly effective Less Favoured Area Scheme.  The debate was attended by Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos and was an initial exchange of views on the report drafted by George Lyon MEP.

In order to inform discussion and put the various reports in context, Smith has also produced a short briefing on the actual steps involved in achieving CAP reform (see below).

Speaking after the debate, Smith said:

"We had a discussion full of various good, bad and occasionally ugly contributions but while this is all very well, I really do fear that, even at this early stage, we're too muddled in our thinking.  There is a danger of MEPs trying to do everything and in so doing, in fact, achieving nothing.

"Some members seem to believe that the CAP is a "catch all" policy in which we can do everything on our wish list: environmental protection; economic growth; and so on.  I'm not against these goals, but attempting to do them all in the CAP will merely dilute a budget which is already under severe strain, and we will end up in a situation where we can't devote enough money to achieve any of these lofty ambitions.

"That's why I made the case for a CAP which has one overriding goal of food production, and related actions which help us grow more food.  That way we can get more "bang for the buck" out of our CAP budget.  In my opinion, actions such as "green growth", which I fully support as an objective, are much better dealt with in the Structural Funds which are better designed to deal with it, rather than further dispersing money that should be promoting actual food production.  Getting green growth objectives into the Structural Funds would also increase the pot of money available to rural Scotland.

"We should be devoting the majority of our resources to help food production, not for worthy yet peripheral concerns such as birdlife, wetlands, trees and especially not tobacco growing.  This means the end of the "slipper brigade": we need to work out a system which rewards farmers for the contribution they make towards food security.  Furthermore, the Less Favoured Area scheme must not be forgotten in the general debate about reform of the CAP: it is one of the most useful and successful parts of the CAP, in ensuring continued food production and economic activity in areas which otherwise might be abandoned and depopulated, such as the highlands here in Scotland.  It must be an integral part of the new CAP which emerges in 2013."

The process whereby the CAP will be reformed is a lengthy one, and the current initial report under consideration by the Agriculture Committee is merely the first in a series of reports, and will only be as influential as the ideas it contains.  The time line is below.

  • The present report, drafted by George Lyon is open for amendment in the Agriculture Committee until 27 April, and will be adopted by the Committee in May or June and the full Parliament in the July plenary session.
  • The European Commission has started a debate with general public from now until June, whereupon the Commission consultation phase concludes with a conference in Brussels in July.
  • This conference and consultation process will culminate in a Communication of the Commission to the European Council and Parliament, scheduled for publication on 11 November.
  • This Communication will form the basis of a Report by the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee.
  • We cannot expect legislative proposals until towards the Summer or Autumn 2011, crucially, in parallel with discussion on budget.
  • Each of the proposals will form the basis of a report by the Agriculture Committee.
  • The legislative proposals to be finished with negotiation between Council and European Parliament by end of 2012.