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
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.
Should the CAP be abolished?
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
The goal today is to work towards an ever simpler, more
effective and efficient system of support.
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