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You say subsidy delivers food security

Agriculture.com Staff 02/07/2011 @ 12:50pm

Subsidies should be retained to protect national and regional food supply. This is the view from more than half the farmers across the globe who gave views on the best purpose of agricultural subsidy, in a poll led by Farmers Weekly.

But almost a quarter of farmers called for subsidies to be scrapped, reflecting the wide divergence of views across the world on a topic that polarises nations. Around 12% felt the role of subsidies is to stabilise consumer prices, while a similar proportion chose environmental protection as their purpose.

So why is it that more than half of the world’s farmers seek the secure shelter of subsidy, rather than the meritocratic opportunity of an unfettered world trade?

“We have support out of necessity, not desire,” states president of the English National Farmers Union (NFU) Peter Kendall.

“We live in a world where global markets are distorted, where Russia closes its doors to wheat trade and the US supports its corn farmers. If we didn’t have an agricultural policy in the EU we would become the world’s dumping ground for surpluses.

“We should aspire to get to a place where world and EU markets give farmers a fair return, and work towards no subsidies.”

But with both the US Farm Bill and Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy up for review, there’s little talk of either moving away from subsidised farming. Food security is the greater concern.

“We have a duty towards our European citizens to provide for them quality, healthy food,” says EU Farms Commissioner Dacian Cioloş.

“Feeding the world will be a challenge in itself. It is a challenge that Europe has to be ready to address, as part of the global response, but also because it is a strategic security imperative for Europeans.”

With this imperative in mind, CAP’s direct payments give EU farmers the confidence to supply a hostile market place, argues NFU’s head of economics and international affairs Tom Hind.

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