EUROPEAN UNION farm subsidies come with a cost
Posted: August 28th, 2009 - 3:00pm
Source: The Packer
The European Union spends billions of dollars in subsidies on farmers and food handlers to ensure food safety.
The controversial Common Agricultural Policy will spend $70 billion in subsidies this year, mostly in direct payments, for 12 million farmers in 27 countries from Ireland to Poland, Greece to Norway.
The No.1 priority: Food safety and quality.
The U.S. and the EU have long battled over Europe’s agricultural policies. The U.S. claims they distort trade and are far too big.
The EU hits back by saying they have reduced subsidies, decoupled payments from production, and opened markets to developing nations, including the 50 poorest nations.
They deny they are responsible for the breakdown of World Trade Organization talks.
The subsidy program, the biggest anywhere, eats up 40% of the EU budget. It began as a way to encourage food production for the continent. That worked so well it created mountainous surpluses of butter, meat, apples and other products.
Today, the EU justifies the program on grounds of food safety and quality, environmental preservation, sustainability, and rural development. Official statements point out that rural communities and farms account for half the population and 90% of the land.
In justifying the subsidies the EU official statements take some swipes at the U.S.:
c The EU is the true “land of the family farm” as opposed to the U.S. where farms are much larger and often “corporate.”
c Corporate farming is rare in Europe.
c Food safety has greatly improved since the food scares of the 1990s, such as Mad Cow Disease.
But the reality shows a somewhat different story. The subsidy system is abused. It’s documented that rich people are subsidized, including the Queen of England, who is a huge landowner.