Navigation path

Address by Commissioner Dacian Ciolos to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
E-mail this pageE-mail this pagePrintPrint

Address by EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian CioloĊŸ,

to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,

Dublin, 1 October 2010

Commissioner Dacian Ciolos

Dear Minister,

Mr. Chairman,

Honourable Members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 

First of all, let me say that I am very happy to be here with you and exchange ideas on the future of agriculture and the Common Agriculture Policy.

I know we share at least two fundamental ideas:

The EU agriculture sector needs a strong Common Agriculture Policy and "A heavy purse makes a light heart".

We are working on this and we need to work on this together.

Before getting into the debate, allow me to give you a brief overview of where we stand with the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy. 

A broad public debate on the future of the CAP ended in July, a debate in which we got a high level of response - not just from farmers, but also from think tanks, NGOs working in  environmental protection, development, consumer's rights, and animal welfare, and a large number of private citizens. 

During the public debate, in response to questions about why we need a CAP, the various contributions identified seven major challenges:

-    food security
-    competitiveness
-    globalization
-    environmental challenge
-    territorial balance 
-    diversity
-    simplicity

Based on our discussions in and around the conference, and with Member States, we can summarise the main objectives of the CAP in 3 main priorities – food production; the sustainable management of natural resources; and the maintenance of the social fabric and landscape of rural areas – or territorial balance.

Let me say a few more words about some of these challenges. 

Food production

Food security is one of the biggest challenges that the world faces in the years ahead. The FAO forecasts that global food demand will increase by 50% by 2030 and double by 2050. The strategic importance of agriculture will increase significantly in the future. 

We also have a responsibility towards the citizens of the world. We should keep our capacity to help countries facing challenges in feeding their citizens, without blocking the growth of their own agriculture.  

The EU should not become too dependent on imports. You all know what happened this summer on the international markets when, due to a decrease in cereals   production, Russia decided to impose a ban on exports. There is no risk for Europe at this stage and this is thanks to our Common Agriculture Policy.

On this point of international trade, allow me one digression:

I am well aware of your concerns related to the re-launched negotiations with MERCOSUR. The Commission as a whole decided last May that it was worth restarting talks with the MERCOSUR countries, estimating that it would be a net gain to the European economy. The progress is not fast. 

Aware of the concerns expressed on the impact that this agreement could have on certain sectors of our agriculture – not least, Irish concerns - I have called for a more detailed, up-to-date analysis of costs.

But whatever happens on MERCOSUR, my intention is to make sure that we have sufficient mechanisms in place to support vulnerable European producers.   

Returning then to our second main priority – let's call it the environmental challenge – namely climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, depletion of soil…. This is not the scenario of a horror movie, but a reality tested day-by-day. Farmers themselves are the first affected by climate change and extreme whether conditions. Farmers can also bring answers to this and we have to support them to adapt their practices to the challenges ahead. 

For me there is absolutely no doubt that agriculture can provide a major response to all these challenges.

The EU 2020 strategy with its targets of intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth has to go beyond the city gates. If fit to respond these challenges, the Common Agriculture Policy will have a major say on this.

To fight these challenges, we have to maintain our production capacity all across Europe, ensuring a sustainable use of natural resources and – our third main priority – maintaining the vitality of our rural areas .

The Common Agriculture Policy with its two pillars structure allows for coherence between different approaches in supporting agriculture and rural areas in Europe. 

The first pillar would be our response to the major challenges, common to all EU Member States, such as the social, economic, environmental and territorial challenges. The first pillar provides support for all European farmers on an annual basis.

The second pillar would be the development of our agricultures and our territories, addressing climate change and contributing to the sustainable management of natural resources. It will support our objectives in a targeted way, with clear priorities, on a multiyear basis of programming. It will have sufficient flexibility to achieve our objectives according to specific characteristics in different territories.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is a crystal clear truth: Direct payments are crucial for the future of European agriculture.

The direct payments of today are income support for farmers. The ways these payments are distributed will be adjusted, but the principle is not under discussion. Direct payments are indispensable for the sustainability of our agriculture across Europe. 

Without direct payments, agricultural production would severely decline in vulnerable sectors or regions. The economic and social damage would be considerable and I do not imagine for a moment that we are ready to take this risk.

We must promote sustainable agriculture throughout Europe, recognizing and taking into account all its diversity.

But preserving this diversity does not mean reactivating national policies to the detriment of the EU policy. The re-nationalization of the CAP is not acceptable because this would destabilize the only truly integrated European policy and would ruin the efforts to achieve the single market.

This support plays a vital  role in securing most farmers' incomes. It ensures the sustainability of our agriculture throughout Europe, and allows farmers to provide other benefits and public goods beyond "just" producing safe  food.

This being said, I do not advocate for a status-quo.

In these troubled times, we have to make the CAP Europe's investment for its future. And it will not be the case if the support for our farmers is based on what they did in the past.

Direct payments must evolve towards better targeting active farmers in order to optimize the use of public funds. They have to better reflect the care farmers take of environment, providing stronger incentives for sustainable farming – but must also retain the elements of income support for those many farms that need it.  

We must move to a system where the taxpayer can understand what farmers are doing for them. The current system sees considerable differences in the rate of aid that farmers get from one member state to another. This is not justifiable for the period after 2013. Direct payments must be more equitably distributed amongst member states, regions and types of agriculture.

Our aim is to put forward a balanced solution, acceptable to all member states. We will not solve problems in some countries by creating difficulties in others. 

Market instruments

I've said it a few days ago, during a pubic hearing on volatility and speculation: the markets have never had as much impact on farmers, processors and consumers, as they are having today.

We must adjust these markets so that they can play their role to anticipate and match the demand with the supply. But we must make sure that hyper-speculation is not jeopardizing entire sectors of our agriculture.

In addition to an increased regulation of markets, we have to put within the Common Agriculture Policy new tools to address the extreme volatility of prices and farm incomes. It is in my intention to put forward some proposals in this respect. We also need progress on the question of distribution of bargaining power within the food chain.

The Future CAP need stronger rural development programmes.

More than in the past, they must accompany agriculture on the path of modernization, adaptation to climate change and innovation.

To conclude, I would like to come back to a fundamental element, and I know that we agree on this point too: agriculture has a crucial multifunctional role for our territories.

Our public investment in agriculture goes well beyond food, which is however already a vital element and we must continue our efforts.

We must promote an agriculture capable of overcoming the crisis, an agriculture efficiently managing natural resources, an agriculture that is the economic engine of our rural areas.

I know we can do it together.

Thank you for your attention!

Last update: 31/10/2010  |Top