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CAP reform must not take us back to the 19th Century AIC

The siren voices of single issue pressure groups seeking to influence CAP reform run the risk of turning agriculture back to what has been described as a 19th century cottage industry which, says AICs Head of Policy Paul Rooke, is completely unacceptable  and unsustainable.

Speaking after the EU Commissions high profile conference on CAP reform post 2013, Mr Rooke highlighted the divergent views that exist on future policy.

The conference generated views from many different organisations, most of them from outside mainstream production agriculture, said Mr Rooke. This forced the question, within the conference, of how the EU sees its agricultural industry; is it as a modern, progressive, economic and sustainable business, or a 19th century cottage industry?

Under the current reform consultation process there are a wide range of interest groups  each clearly seeking  to pull the CAP in different directions. Whilst there is a broad consensus on the delivery of a range of public goods in terms of environmental management and sustainabillty, demands have also been made that the CAP should take on a wider remit for both rural policy as well as food and nutritional education.

The Commission now has to consider how to manage this myriad of different views without losing sight of the long term strategic requirements: to deliver an overall higher level of EU food production and a greater proportion of future global food requirements.

Achieving this in a sustainable manner, whilst maintaining biodiversity is not impossible, says Mr Rooke. However, the pressure to deliver public good should not simply rely on funding within a CAP structure.  Likewise, delivery of a wider rural development policy cannot be debated or funded under the CAP alone.

For AIC the options are clear, the EU cannot backtrack from its current position within the global food production system, a point echoed by Agriculture Commissioner Ciolos as he summed up the conference.

Delivering the agricultural industry and productivity which the world requires is not consistent with preservation of a historic rural idyll we must work to ensure the UK is not alone in recognising that reality, said Mr Rooke.

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