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Europe's agriculture and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – frequently asked questions

Why the CAP?

Why do we need a 'common' agricultural policy at EU level?

The CAP ensures fair competition and common quality and safety standards for our food. It also helps the functioning of the single market. The great variety of products we can put on our table today would have been unthinkable without the single market which policies like the CAP helped establish.

If there was no CAP, individual countries would still subsidise their farmers. This would lead to subsidy competition, which would have to be strictly managed under EU State Aid rules and could result in higher overall spending.

Should the CAP be abolished?

No. We cannot gamble with our food supply by stripping farming of all defence against crises. We cannot count on market forces alone to protect our landscapes against climate change or to help our farmers deal with globalisation.

To overcome such challenges, the European Union is actively modernising and simplifying the CAP.

It has already freed farmers to respond to market signals by giving them income support to ensure a certain level of financial security, and it is helping farms become sustainable and retain their vigour in the face of global competition.

The goal today is to work towards an ever simpler, more effective and efficient system of support.

Why do farmers need public support – don't they earn enough already?

Contrary to popular belief in some countries, farming is not a money-spinner. Compared to other professions, farmers often work longer hours and earn less. Essential investment in their businesses is costly and returns only come months, perhaps even years, later.

European Union farmers benefit from income support for supplying the kind of public goods which cannot be provided purely by the market – environmental protection, animal welfare, high-quality and safe food. European Union standards in these areas are amongst the highest in the world. As a consequence, producing food in Europe is more expensive than in countries where such standards are not obligatory.

As high-cost producers of food, European farmers would find it very difficult to compete against farmers in other countries without public support. Indeed, as the impact of climate change increases, the cost of sustainable farming is only likely to rise.



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A picture of EU agriculture

Basic CAP facts

Why the CAP?

The cost of the CAP

CAP reforms

Fact or fiction?

Rural Development

Food prices

The CAP and the environment

The CAP and trade

The CAP and developing countries

Food quality and safety

Animal health and welfare

Agriculture and Rural Development I Top

Last update: 20-04-2011