Forum for the Future of Agriculture

MEP Mairead McGuinness on the Provision of Environmental Public Goods by Farmers
Farm produced commodities fuel the food industry; provide jobs and feed EU consumers, in addition to providing unpaid for public goods in terms of the environment and animal welfare.

” Farming in Europe is about more than just growing and selling. Here, farmers play a crucial role in our efforts to protect against environmental degradation; preserving the agricultural landscape and bio-diversity, sustaining air and water quality, mitigating climate change through soil and land management . We sometimes forget that our farmers produce higher quality food and in so doing have contributed to the huge improvements in people’s health & well-being over the past 50 years. This is part of the “pubic goods” they provide to society.

Trouble is, it is difficult to put a value on these public goods, since they cannot be commonly priced through the competitive market. But without them, we Europeans and our society would undoubtedly be much poorer.

If we want farmers to keep supplying these largely unpaid for public goods or indeed to provide more of them, we need to ensure they are economically viable. This requires properly functioning markets and safety-net market supports when prices fall dramatically. Farming is a high risk business and those risks are on the increase with price and income volatility likely to escalate in future.

In the long history of EU subsidies to the agricultural sector, the CAP has represented a coherent form of intervention enabling the delivery of economic, social, and – more recently – environmental benefits.

There is no doubt that the CAP will be adjusted to meet the challenges posed by food & environmental insecurity, but at its heart it must deliver a framework in which farmers can sustain themselves. If we didn’t have farmers we would need an army of EU employed officials to do what they do! And perhaps they would not do it so well!! Farm families currently deliver economic, social & environmental benefits for themselves and for all of us – if we want this to continue, we should be careful how we reform the CAP!”

Mairead McGuinness MEP will be talking on the subject of the role of public goods in agriculture at FFA2010 on Tuesday March 16th 2010.

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