Ministers to start talks on future of EU agriculture

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As EU ministers for agriculture prepare to launch a debate on the future of the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) tomorrow, farmers’ groups are calling the EU to adopt organic farming as its future model and to safeguard farming activities in mountainous regions.

The informal meeting of European ministers for agriculture is taking place on 21-23 September. The debate on the future of CAP will be launched tomorrow, when French minister and former EU commissioner for regional policy Michel Barnier is set to present a French EU Presidency document entitled ‘How to best prepare tomorrow’s CAP’.

The reflection paper is intended to open the debate on which principles should govern European agriculture after 2013, ahead of crucial discussions over the EU’s long-term budget [the financial perspectives] which start in 2009. The most controversial issues on the agenda of the ‘CAP health check’ are subsidy cuts prposed by the Commission for several sectors.  

According to the French Presidency, the bloc needs “an ambitious and balanced agricultural policy that is capable of dealing with the challenges of the future; a policy that reconciles supporting food production that is sufficient both in terms of quality and quantity and protecting the environment, taking into account the diversity of our lands”.

Last week, a seminar organised by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) resulted in a call for organic farming to become the future model for European agriculture. According to the movement, it can deliver “a unique combination” of positive answers to all the challenges identified by the Presidency. 

IFOAM argues that organic farming contributes not only to health and food quality and food security through enabling self sufficiency, but that it also helps improve rural society and quality of life in rural areas through job creation and local marketing. In addition, it is good for the environment thanks to “lower energy use and carbon sequestration”. 

Currently, though, organic farming accounts for just a small share of overall farming in Europe. However, the Commission believes that it can be a significant contributor to achieving agricultural and environmental sustainability and has therefore recently launched a specific EU Organic Farming Campaign to change this. 

Farmers in mountainous regions have also got their act together and are calling on national governments and the EU institutions to better protect mountain farming as they say it is essential for safeguarding economic activity in these remote regions.

The French Presidency has recognised the need to foster the harmonious development of all European regions, “for which agriculture is often the economic backbone”. 

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