Lord Haskins, an arable and dairy farmer, the chairman of Northern Foods and the head of the Better Regulation Task Force, is set to tell the UK and German governments that Europe’s seven million farmers should receive large, one-off payments in return for completing radical agriculture reform.
An international conference, organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung think-tank, will be held in London tomorrow to discuss the future of agriculture. The stage is to be shared by Margaret Beckett, UK environment, food and rural affairs secretary, and German agriculture minister Renate Kunast.
Both Beckett and Kunast are expected to support a move away from payments that promote intensive farming, efficiency and increased food production, towards subsidies for agriculture techniques that protect the environment and rural development. Kunast has already suggested that the EU increase its organic produce output by 20% within the next decade.
Beckett is expected to state in her speech that reform is necessary to prevent disasters such as BSE and foot-and-mouth from reoccurring.
Addressing tomorrow’s delegates with a paper on the principles of reform, Lord Haskins is set to argue that politicians have a “unique window of opportunity” to replace the centralised EU Common Agricultural Policy with a state-controlled “Common Environmental Policy”.
Agricultural crises such as BSE and foot and mouth have created a climate that favours change, he believes, and policy makers must be strong to drive a reform path through the “political quagmires” of EU bureaucracy.
Lord Haskins believes that reform will enable cheaper prices and greater choice for consumers and is set to launch a nine-month research project on the future of rural society, to be conducted by the Foreign Policy Centre.
Spectators are interested to see whether other EU farm ministers will agree on the subject of reform at a meeting with Beckett at her first agriculture council next Monday.
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