Smith Lays Out Goals For CAP Reform

28 April 2010
Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's powerful Agriculture Committee, has today (Wednesday) set out a vision for the future of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy which places the active production of food by farmers, and the wider goal of food security for Europe, at its heart.

Smith has submitted amendments to the European Parliament's first report on CAP Reform, which set out that "the fundamental purpose and single organising principle of the CAP is to achieve a safe, secure and sustainable supply of food for European citizens", which call for "the active production of food through minimum activity rules to be an absolute requirement in return for payments", and which hit out at misguided attempts to make the CAP "multifunctional", which risk over-stretching the limited CAP budget. 

Smith also submitted amendments designed to enshrine the principle of subsidiarity in the CAP, so that Scottish authorities have maximum flexibility to tailor the CAP on the ground to Scotland's needs; and which will put the successful and effective Less Favoured Area scheme, and the principle of extra payments to overcome handicaps, at the heart of the European support system.

Smith said:

"Last week's events really brought home the fragility of the world we live in and our over-dependence on potentially disrupted air transport links.  I believe the UK government authorities have been far too complacent about the security and stability of our food supplies, lazily assuming that international transit networks and foreign sources of supply will never fail.  Last week was the mother of all wake-up calls.  Certain exotic foodstuffs we have been used to seeing on our supermarket shelves were cut off.  To be sure, while a volcanic eruption may be an unusual occurrence, with climate change set to take hold, abnormal weather patterns, in particular drought, may well threaten our sources of food from overseas.

"That is why a strong CAP focused on securing a stable domestic food supply is so important.  I fully understand why many groups want to shift the focus of CAP spending on to other concerns such as environmental protection and "green growth", but they badly underestimate the vital requirement to ensure we produce the food that we need.

"Recent market volatility has underlined that the market does not always reward farmers for what they produce, and thus food production is the ultimate "public good".  That's why I want this report to clearly state that CAP money should be very largely focused on food production.  I am fully supportive of these other goals, but I think areas like rural economic development would be better dealt with in a reformed Structural Funds, so that farming money is not diverted into peripheral concerns.  We must also make clear that payment systems which give money to farmers who are not active (the so-called "slipper brigade"), are totally unacceptable and must be reformed as soon as possible to ensure that taxpayers money is going to the production of food.

"I'm also delighted to champion the LFA scheme.  The current distribution of CAP payments is indeed flawed, and we need to direct public support at farmers who need the greatest assistance to overcome geographical, physical and social handicaps in order to produce food.  That's where the LFA has worked so well over the years and I want to see it and its principles at the heart of agricultural support in Europe.

"I look forward to the debates ahead with my colleagues, and I hope they and the Commission will take on board my suggestions."

The European Parliament's Initiative Report on the Future of the CAP will be voted on in the Agriculture Committee in June, and by the full plenary session in July.