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Does the CAP still fit?

Bailey, A., Lang, T. & Schoen, V. (2016). Does the CAP still fit?. UK: Food Research Collaboration.


The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has evolved through various reforms since its outline in 1958 and formal inception in 1962. It has changed from a policy focused on farm production outputs to one focusing more on social, rural and environmental support. UK policy interest in the CAP is being shaped by the Referendum decision on whether or not to remain a part of the EU. To disentangle UK food and farm policy from that of European neighbours and then to re-establish workable trading links is not a small task. We argue that ideally the CAP would become a Common Sustainable Food Policy or Common Food Policy. This framework would help integrate farm and fisheries policies with diverse measures that are needed to reduce food’s impact on health, environment and social inequalities.

Policy-makers at EU and national levels must help shift the food system to meet the needs of the 21st century. Some of CAP’s founding aims – for food security, affordability, health – remain appropriate today, although what is meant by those goals has altered since the CAP was mooted in the late 1950s. Written before the UK’s 2016 Referendum on EU membership, this paper argues that, whether the UK is in or out, the drive to more sustainable consumption and production needs to be an essential characteristic of the UK’s diet and supply chain. The UK like all EU member states needs to review its entire food system. At the EU level, a Common Food Policy would translate existing commitments to Sustainable Consumption and Production and help meet the new Sustainable Development Goals. The paper signals out some elements where new broader thinking is already emerging or being debated: animal welfare, water, public health, waste reduction and the commitment to the ‘circular economy’. Clearer political leadership and policy leverage is required to enable the structural shifts required. Civil society and academics can play an important role in creating the appropriate arguments, data and conditions for the transition that is sorely needed.

Specifically, the paper explains how:
• The CAP was first introduced over 50 years ago in response to post-war food insecurity and has been constantly changing over time. The latest reforms of 2013 began to take effect in 2015.
• The 2013 reforms introduced a new greening element into the CAP in an effort to encourage sustainable production. Following from the 2000 reforms, payments under so-called Pillar 1 are now made on a per hectare basis rather than per unit of output.
• Although considerably less than the 70% seen in the 1980s, the CAP now absorbs 40% of the EU budget.
• The Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development in Brussels has only 1,000 civil servants, yet accounts for over a third of the total EU budget. Defra in the UK has 2,000 for England alone.
• In the UK, farmers receive only £10 billion of the £198 billion that UK consumers spend on food per year. Many farmers rely on the additional income from subsidies to keep them in farming.
• The CAP has social, economic, health and environmental impacts, not all of which are beneficial. Perhaps most success in the UK has come in terms of environmental improvements, but there is still much to be done in this area.
• Although the CAP has not impacted animal welfare directly, it does have indirect effects as the subsidies given to arable farming have allowed an increase in the intensive pig and poultry sectors.
• Many problems are noted with the current CAP, which means it will need to radically change in the future. Four broad options about CAP’s purpose and preparations for the next phase of reform are explored in which CAP: (a) weakens significantly; (b) evolves pragmatically; (c) becomes a rural development policy; or (d) becomes a Common (Sustainable) Food Policy. The paper favours a Common Sustainable Food Policy that addresses current health crises and environmental costs.
• Problems in the food and farming sectors remain whether the public votes to Brexit or Bremain on 23rd June. A Common Sustainable Food Policy will be relevant whatever the outcome.

Publication Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: © This working paper is copyright of the authors.
Publisher Keywords: Common Agricultural Policy; UK food and farming
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
[thumbnail of CAP FRC paper FINAL May 2016.pdf]
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