British and German agriculture ministers want to work together to push through a greener future for farms following Agriculture Commissioner Fischler’s challenge for more sustainable farming. At the one-day conference in London on 17 July, the ministers argued that radical reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) was still possible. Mr Fischler had announced last week that reform was not possible until 2006.
Negotiations of the reform of the CAP cannot start before next year’s mid-term review of recent Agenda 2000 reforms. However, the two ministers feel that more funding could be used for greener farming under the new rural development regulation. Under the regulation, Member States can shift up to 20 percent of the CAP towards rural development. Germany recently agreed to a draft law that would allow for more funds to go towards rural development.
Although there will be no formal negotiations until next year, German agriculture minister Ms Künast said that her country would work closely with Britain to persuade other Member States that there is an urgent need for reforms to improve food safety, reduce intensive agriculture and promote organic production methods.
Both ministers agree on the fundamental need to reform the CAP. However, Ms Künast would like to see more small-integrated farms and asserts that only private and organic farms should be eligible for subsidies, not large-scale intensive farms. She also feels that the CAP should be geared more towards consumers and not just farmers.
France is currently seen as the strongest opposition to any reform of the CAP but the two ministers believe they can persuade the French. Ms Künast noted that France is likely to support reform as enlargement will mean fewer subsidies from the CAP.
Chief executive of Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Graham Wynne said, the new approach to agriculture should not be dominated by the food industry - 90 percent of CAP spending still supports food production - but should take a "multi-functional" approach.
Europe's biggest farmers' union, COPA commented that negotiations are necessary in order to avoid a clash of Europe's ecological, economic and social aspects of agriculture and called for the CAP to be "revitalised and developed".