- Published on Thursday, 25 September 2008 11:36
The farmers’, rural, environmental, and international solidarity organisations, as all citizens gathered on September 21st in Annecy (F), address the following manifesto to the Agriculture Minister of the European Union, who come here to debate about the future CAP after 2013:
To eat every day remains a priority need for all. However the right to food is scorned: it is unacceptable that a billion humans don’t have access to a sufficient, healthy and culturally adapted food, either by poverty (Europe is not spared), or by lack of access to the agricultural production. Misery pushes millions of farmers and rural people towards big cities and to emigration. In the European Union (EU), a farm disappears every minute: for the majority of farmers, the current Common Agricultural policy (CAP) does not make it possible to earn their living with dignity from their work.
Whereas we must face climate change, energy crisis, and massive disappearance of biodiversity, the European agriculture still develops modes of production which consume too much energy, water, worsen global warming and are expensive for taxpayers (health, employment, pollution,.. ).
Another European agricultural and food policy is thus essential:
How to change the Common Agriculture Policy?
Now with the CAP health check, the EU must consider having first the vocation to ensure the food security of its population, before claiming to feed the world. That is not being egoistic but, on the contrary, that is allowing the other countries to exert their food sovereignty right and to develop everywhere, in the North as in the South, a sustainable family farming.
To ensure food security, to preserve our planet, to energize country side, agriculture must be officially recognized as being beneficial to the general public. Governments should declare as an objective the maintenance of all farmers in all regions in Europe. It is necessary to produce as close as possible to consumers, in order to reduce transport and to improve the quality of products. Let us recall that the EU is the first importer and exporter for agricultural and food products: this model is out-of-date.
To achieve that, the international framework imposed on the agricultural policies since the nineties by the WTO rules must be re-examined.
1. Farmers want to produce and earn their living from
- to favour farmer's setting up
The CAP and the Member States policies have to favour the access to land, water, credit, to seeds which are not appropriated by seed companies, to inputs linked with sustainable practices, and also access to vocational training which should be re-orientated towards sustainable modes of production. Women farmer's rights must be respected.
- Prices first, before subsidies
Farm prices must be stable and sufficiently remunerative for the continuity and the renewal of farms. Agricultural economics cannot be based on selling products at prices below the production costs, as it is too often the case with the current CAP. In less favoured areas, which have higher production costs, direct payments with a ceiling per active person on the farm are necessary.
- To regulate and protect the markets, but with abandoning the dumping practices
To maintain farm prices stable, it is necessary to avoid surpluses or shortages, therefore to have supply management tools. At same time the dumping of the EU towards third countries has to be stopped, that means to abstain from exporting at prices lowered artificially by subsidies (irrespective of what they are) and to protect the European market from imports at too low price, through tariffs, when that is necessary. The EU can export its specific products without support.
2. To protect our environment
Let us give the priority to agricultural modes of production more sustainable, more autonomous, more sparing of inputs (manure, pesticides,..) and energy. It is unacceptable that the livestock production based on grass, favourable to soil, water, biodiversity and climate protection, receives less support than the production based on corn and soya, or than the cereal production. The permanent meadows must be safeguarded.
Let us accompany all farmers on that way by incentive measures, and re-orientate agricultural development, teaching and research in that direction.
Let us maintain and develop the biodiversity of crop plants and livestock. Let us respect the collective farmers' rights to preserve, re-sow, exchange and sell their seeds reproduced on the farm. Let us ban GMOs.
Let us stop the nibbling of cultivable surfaces by urbanization and by industrial agro-fuels, whose energy and economic profitability are doubtful.
3. To bring producers and consumers closer
Producers need secured, stable and fair relations with the downstream sector. Real co-operative forms as well as direct trade between producers and consumers must be promoted. It is necessary to slow down the development of global and national oligopolies in agro-industry and big retailing sector. To reduce the domination of the retailing sector on processors and producers by an effective control of business practices and margins It is necessary to promote the consumption of local products as well as a food better adapted to human health.
4. Without food sovereignty, there is no good agriculture policy
The European Union must be active at the United Nations for a recognition of the food sovereignty right, which allows States or Unions to lay down their agricultural and food policy, without damage with respect to third countries. To go along with this right, it is necessary:
- to recognize that the first vocation of agriculture is to provide the domestic markets;
- to allow States or groups of States to protect their market from agricultural product imports at prices below the local production costs;
- to authorize public support for sustainable agriculture, providing that they are not used directly or indirectly to export at low prices;
- to ensure the stability of agricultural world prices by regulating the markets.
To cure the CAP as of now with the "health check"
The European Union must rebalance the direct payments between farmers, in particular between stockbreeders and cereal producers, put a ceiling per active person on the farm, and allott a lump sum to the smallest farms.
The weakened sectors should be better supported, in particular the labour intensive productions like fruit and vegetables, wine… , as well as the ovine production, forsaken by the current CAP.
It is essential to maintain and improve the dairy quotas system, as well as other tools of market regulation.
To recover the EU autonomy for plant proteins (we import 75% of our needs!), which feed our herds, the CAP must urgently boost the cultivation of proteaginous plants.
The rural development programs must give priority to the setting up of farmers, to rural employment, and to local or regional trade and processing.
We call upon the governments of the European Union to re-orientate as of now the agricultural policies and the modes of production, in order to answer the citizens’ needs and the global challenges we are facing in this century.
Let us not wait until 2013!