(Brussels, 6th February 2013) As the Council summit on the EU budget approaches and a deal between EU leaders seems imminent, the WWF has released an opinion poll showing that the public wants farm payments to be dependent on supporting environmental and health concerns.
The poll taken across 6 countries - France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and Sweden, - shows a vast majority of respondents expressing a strong belief that subsidies to farmers should not just be an income support measure. Support for a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that produces public goods was highest in Italy where 96% of people agreed with this sentiment. The average across all countries was 90%.
Quote from Tony Long, Director WWF European Policy Office
“Political leaders can’t brush aside public opinion. Taxpayers want the future CAP to ensure environmental best practices in the countryside as well as healthy food. So far these voices have been largely ignored. National governments, powerful agri-food interests, and the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development all seem hell-bent on safeguarding business as usual agriculture while the rest of us have to tighten our belts and feel the full force of austerity measures.”
“If public opinion continues to be ignored, by the time of the next reform in 2020 it is likely there won’t be any public support left to continue subsiding agriculture in any form. European leaders meeting to decide the next 7-year EU budget this week should seriously consider the future for farming. If there was ever any doubt, these latest opinion polls show that providing public goods in return for public subsidies, like environmental protection and healthy foods, is the only deal left on the table for farmers.”
The results of the poll stand in stark contrast to current talks between European leaders. European heads of states will meet on 7-8 February in Brussels to reach a final agreement on the European Budget and the use of public funding for agriculture. Recent proposals that have been circulated are contrary to public opinion with more money as quasi unconditional income support to farmers and less funding for measures to improve the environment, nature and rural landscapes.
Within the coming days the EU will decide on its budget for the period of 2014-2020. An important part of the budget is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), currently taking up around 40% (or 55 billion Euro per year) of the whole budget. The CAP is today used in two major ways:
About three quarters of the total allowance for the CAP provides DirecPayments to farmers, who receive these subsidies based on how much land they own. As provisions are also based on how much subsidies farmers have received in previous years, the system tends to favour large landowners in richer countries. For historical and political reasons, old Member States are favoured over new Member States.
The final quarter supports the Rural Development Programmes. These are target driven measures to improve competitiveness, the environment and the countryside, as well as the quality of life in rural areas.
All indications show that the new CAP is likely to have a smaller budget than the present and there is currently a debate over where cuts should be made. The most recent proposals have gone against public opinion and proposed proportionally larger Direct Payments compared to the Rural Development Programmes.
Over 6,000 people were consulted on this report and IWD Market Research, Norstat Polska, TNS-France, TNS-Germany, TNS-Italy, TNS-SIFO took part in compiling the data.