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RESILIENCE - 30 March 2015

One ambition: ambitious policies for EU agri-food systems

by Farm Europe

The EU’s ambition for agriculture and food, enshrined in the Treaty of Rome, is to meet the needs of its citizens. This ambition remains as relevant as ever and today it is coupled with recent economic upheaval, a need for sustainable and responsible production, and a responsibility to meet the needs of international partners. This policy briefing looks at agricultural policy development and the surrounding societal climate and motivations, as well as the questions that arise from these.

European agriculture was formed in the wake of WWII through its leaders’ ambition to provide food and economic development for European Union (EU) citizens. This ambition held by all MS was expressed through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP’s adoption was a political step of sacrificing national prerogatives and agreeing to develop the sector, rural areas and agri-businesses on a European scale – sharing resources, instruments and rules to do so. 

The CAP has borne fruit: rural areas have been economically transformed, production targets reached and EU food security realised.

The 1990s and 2000s saw the CAP become a policy for EU insiders and specialists. A comprehensibility gap opened up between citizens/tax payers and what was still Europe’s principal policy. Thus the question of EU investment in agriculture arose. Agricultural budget allocation was on the agenda throughout 2009 discussions and 2010’s EU budget for 2014-2020. 

A key goal of the 2013 CAP reforms was to reconnect agricultural policy and societal concerns through reasserting farmers’ roles in food safety, environmental stewardship and EU economic development. 

The world food crises experienced since 2007 and the visible effects of climate change have served as reminders that food security is a present concern. The challenges are:

  • to remain a producer independently ensuring a secure food supply for its citizens;
  • to produce responsibly and sustainably given the world’s fragile and limited natural resources;
  • to meet the needs of international partners given that global food security is a shared challenge, while also developing agriculture in the world’s regions. The EU is the only major agricultural region with stable production conditions and thus has a responsibility to provide a reliable supply to international markets.

Society’s awareness of the importance of ‘common resources’ such as water, air, and land has put the farmer back at the heart of societal challenges. The farmer is both custodian and manager of the environment. Citizens want and must entrust farmers with stewardship, albeit under a watchful, even critical, eye with regards to practices they are reputed to use.There is an objective convergence of interests here. There can be no management without managers, the farmers, and there can be no long-term future for agriculture without sustainable resource use.

In light of economic upheavals, creating a condition where those working in agriculture can plan a career with confidence has become a shared responsibility.

Various questions arise.

Written by Farm Europe