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EU Agriculture Informal Council: 24-26 September 2006

Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

DEFRA's Director General for Sustainable Farming and Food represented the United Kingdom at the EU Agriculture Informal Council in Oulu, Finland. Member states debated how the European model of agriculture might be adapted in the light of increasing international competition in agricultural trade and other global pressures, the likely end of export subsidy, the greater emphasis on rural development and environmental protection, challenges and opportunities such as climate change and energy crops, and the review of the EU budget in 2008-09.

The Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel set out her long-term thinking on common agriculture policy (CAP) reform as part of the discussion. She intended to use a series of CAP “healthchecks”, scheduled for 2007 to 2009 to simplify legislation and review the single payment scheme, the system of cross-compliance and certain CAP regimes such as dairy. She said that the CAP must remain a common policy, but that it must be modernised and the budget reduced after 2013.

There were widespread views amongst member states. All supported the need for greater simplification of the CAP, some said that the European model of agriculture was still relevant, while others felt it must continue to change. One or two said the CAP was now fit for purpose and that the health check and budget review should do very little to change things while the majority acknowledged that there would be further change and expressed a range of views on how that should proceed to ensure that farmers were competitive.

The UK said that the European Model of Agriculture must adapt in order to reflect changing values and circumstances and remain relevant and useful for farmers and society. In line with the Government's vision for the CAP, published in December 2005, we listed our goals for the forthcoming CAP and EU budget reviews: that direct payments and market support measures were damaging and needed to be phased out, with the remaining CAP focusing on public benefits such as rural development. We called for decisions on future policy to be taken soon, so that farming could prepare for the changes ahead.