José Bové: ‘The purpose of agriculture is to feed our citizens’

Eric Andrieu and José Bové. [European Parliament]

The European Commission will reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) by the end of 2017. José Bové and Éric Andrieu argue for an agricultural system that puts the environment, human health and small businesses first. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest France reports.

José Bové (Greens) and Éric Andrieu (Socialist Party) are both French MEPs.

They answered questions from Ouest France’s Virginie Énée.

What are the issues related to the negotiation of the new CAP?

Eric Andrieu: The CAP is not working; not for farmers and not for citizens. For years it has exclusively promoted a productivist and intensive agricultural system, but alternatives exist. We should focus on the European market before looking outward because this obsession with exports is a driver of price volatility.

And the reintroduction of milk quotas is not the only possible response we have available to us. The model has been called into question. We should make a change. Is the model of the 5,000-cow farm really what we want to move towards?

What challenges will the future CAP have to face?

EA: We have to find a different starting point other than profitability. What about food quality? What about human health? Nutritional value? Traceability? GMOs? What about jobs, the recovery of soil, air and water quality? Previous public policies have led to the desertification of our land. Do we want to keep the land alive and able to provide jobs or not?

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What difficulties are appearing in the negotiation process?

José Bové: The member states, like the European Commission, are stuck in the mindset of promoting free trade, with no overall vision or analysis of the consequences. But the main purpose of agriculture is to feed our citizens, not to deal in tonnes of raw materials. We have to come to a comprehensive vision that includes feeding our citizens and creating jobs.

How can we avoid the development of more agricultural crises in the coming months?

EA: More public money has to go to small and medium-sized businesses. To preserve the quality of the soil, create jobs, safeguard our land…

JB: I would like us to manage supply, using volumes or other tools, and to define minimum prices. We cannot continue paying farmers less than the cost of production. The global milk price is not tied to anything in the real world. It is set by a few big cooperatives.

You want to promote the development of organic farming and short supply chains that protect the land and create jobs. Do you fear for the future of this kind of farming?

EA: We are in the process of changing the European regulations governing organic agriculture. It is a question of knowing how to guarantee the quality of products as demand continues to grow. And shepherding demand so that organic food is not something just a small group of Europeans can enjoy.

JB: The big supermarkets are trying to sink this agreement and bring us back to the previous system, which does not impose the EU’s organic standards on imported products. If this agreement is adopted, any product entering the European market will have to meet our standards.

Agriculture: Towards more efficient resource allocation

The talks about the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy have already started, and several stakeholders claim that the next CAP should help EU farmers adjust to a competitive international environment.

The negotiations will only begin in the spring, but you already seem pessimistic…

JB: I hope we will really be able to debate the CAP, but I am not sure. The European Commission is using double standards. On the one hand, President Jean-Claude Junker says he agrees, but at the same time the executive is planning a full reform (with the Omnibus report) that would change the rules of the game without any real debate. What is more, it is yet another manifestation of this bureaucratic Europe that citizens find so disgusting.

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