What are the first two questions you ask friends when they return from holiday? They are usually, “What was the weather like?” and “How was the food?” How often have you heard people say, “Well, you can say what you like about the French, but their food is fantastic”? Speaking from personal experience, I can confirm that the worst thing about Germany is the food. Can you see where I am heading with this?
Despite getting the Nobel Peace Prize, the EU’s biggest achievement has been subsidising and rewarding bad farmers, and consigning the poorest people in Europe deeper into food poverty, and paying billions to slightly iffy regimes as a result.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) came into being in 1962 and since then has sucked up the vast majority of funds. Despite this, until the Lisbon Treaty, the only power of the European Parliament was that it could question the budget of the EU except that of the CAP.
Over the years, in addition to making direct payments to the farmers, the CAP has had a variety of floors that prop up the market prices of unwanted goods. It has taken huge surpluses out of the market-place (butter mountains and so on) to keep consumer prices high, taken land out of production to keep prices high (set-aside and the funding of diversities, such as eco-tourism) and taken land out for biofuels that will make our energy bills even higher. Further it has maintained food import tariffs and obstructed efficiencies like GM. It subsidises food ‘exports’ that include airline and cruise liner meals, and even paid farmers to build cafes and shops. In addition, the system has provided for a set of rules that cost billions to implement, and make for easy gaming. I personally loved the stories of Irish pigs being run through tunnels time and again to qualify for export subsidies.
According to Lee Rotherham in his book The EU in a Nutshell, the total cost to the UK population is £10.3 billion or £400 for each family a year, based on his 2010 studies (I doubt that this has gone down), but this misses the additional costs to the countryside that are being channelled via the Structural and Cohesion funds, as populations have to ‘diversify’ and ‘adapt’.
The result is higher food prices. No question. And who suffers the most? The poorest. That is why in the UK we are seeing the rise and rise of food-banks. It is a national disgrace.
The problem though is bigger still. Because of Food Fortress Europe, the farmers in the developing world cannot compete in the European market, and so guess what? We send aid to the countries to compensate. Not content with devising a system that pays bad farmers at the expense of our own urban poor, we have a system that makes payments to dubious regimes, that do not always get to the intended recipients and thus keep their poorest firmly in miserable poverty.
Talk of food security is utter rubbish, if supply was not outstripping demand there would be no need for market intervention, no need for set-aside, no need for eco-tourism and no need for land being given over to bio fuels.
The CAP is a poverty making machine, and should not be ‘reformed’, it has no place in modern society and ought to be consigned to history.