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EU Says Trust CAP

European countries trying to protect farmers against the global economic downturn should trust the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and not veer off into new national policies, the Czech EU presidency said March 23.

In a discussion paper circulated to the bloc’s farm ministers, the Czech Republic referred to a “deficit” of ideas so far about how to reduce farmers’ exposure to financial risk.

The challenge of the present economic situation, it said, was to get policy-makers and farmers to think about the right shape for EU farm policy, the CAP. But the crisis should not tempt countries to move away from CAP principles, it said.

“The present great uncertainty on international markets and the threat of a recession with an impact on agriculture should not tempt to create new policies eroding or forgetting these valuable principles,” it said.

Often criticized by Europe’s top trading partners as distorting world markets, the CAP has its roots in 1950s Western Europe whose societies were damaged by years of war and where food supplies could not be guaranteed.

It has been reformed numerous times, and has now moved away from many of the old-style market support policies where farmers depended on production-linked subsidies for their main source of income – to create “wine lakes” and “butter mountains.”

Many classic supply control tools, such as production quotas and guaranteed EU public buying of key commodities are also slowly being limited, and some are being phased out altogether.

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