Tuesday, August 3

On the Subject of Farming

To most people in the UK the Machiavellian maneuvering of EU officials and politicians to decide which EU Commissioner becomes responsible for what portfolio is of no interest whatsoever since it is regarded as an irrelevance.

In actuality, who the power players in the EU are is more relevant than who are the political heads of government ministries in Westminster, or indeed the members of the Scottish executive. The levers of power in the UK have long been transferred from Westminster to Brussels.

Thus it is a very relevant subject to every British Farmer as to who the next EU Farm Commissioner is to be.

The favorite is Dutch Farm Minister Cees Veerman closely followed by the Danish Farm Minister Marianne Fischer Bole, who is a radical CAP reformer. Though Mr. Veerman is much favored by his fellow bureaucrats at the heart of Europe his fellow countrymen seem reluctant to nominate him.

Another contender is the Finnish Commissioner despite the fact that he has no direct experience, or apparent knowledge of agriculture.

In all this confusion, to which British Farmers are largely unaware, essential questions remain unasked in the UK's newspapers.

Why is there a need for a Farm Commissioner ?

The answer is because the UK is subject to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union !

Is this costly to the UK ?

Well the answer is, for last year that I have been able to find figures the cost of CAP to the UK is at leat £4.5 billion, and that was back in 1998. According to The Institute of Economic Affairs that was a serious underestimation; by now the true net cost of CAP on the British Tax payer is estimated to be at least £6 billion and rising.

Adherence to the Common Agricultural Policy is the major economic cost of the UK's membership of the European Union.

This raises two more questions: Why does CAP exist and two, why are we paying so much into it?
The answer is to prevent inefficient French farmers from rioting on the streets of Paris and two, because the UK is a member of the EU.
The essential fact is that the UK does not have an agricultural policy of its own; we have to rely on the common policy determined collectively by the now 25 member states. All at great cost to British subjects.
Can all this be reformed? According to Margaret Becket the political head of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Britain will be 'leading the pack' in pursuing reform.
Talks at the heart of Europe are always dominated by speculation as to whether the Greeks will play ball with the Fins, Danes, Irish or Potuguese or any other combination. The French, by the way, tend not to play ball on principle.
All in all what should be a very British Subject is a very European issue.
So what do we do ? Are we perhaps better of out ?
Questions should be directed to readers MPs, who by the way will be back from their summer holidays in the first week of September , for two weeks before they go away again for another six weeks rest.

With thanks to The Farmers Guardian 30 July 04, IEA Occasional Paper 99 - Dr Brian Hindly and Martin Howe QC and The Death of British Agriculture - Dr Richard North

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