Commissioner defends CAP policy

European commissioner for agriculture and rural development Phil Hogan has defended the reputation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and appealed to critics not take its benefits for granted.

Hogan, from Kilkenny in Ireland, has welcomed constructive criticism but has expressed his belief in the values and importance of CAP.

Speaking on the opening day of the NFU conference on Tuesday, Hogan said UK citizens viewed EU rules and regulations with a critical eye, but that the CAP was vital to food security: “We must not allow ourselves to forget the historical mission of the CAP itself – to ensure the sufficient supply of safe and sustainably produced food at a quality which our consumers expect, despite the uncertainties which farmers face.

“This mission of delivering food security is more relevant now than ever, with rapidly increasingly global population growth, evolving consumer patterns, as well as diminishing natural resources, and political instability in certain key regions.

“Sometimes I have the impression that critics of the CAP seem to take for granted this principle of food security. Producing food is the primary role of farmers and the delivery of high-quality traceable food should be seen as a public good.”

Hogan believes that while it has not always had a great reputation, CAP “has come a long way in recent years”. He pointed to the 2013 reforms as progress, creating a market-orientated policy which allows farmers more freedom and independence.

The Irishman told delegates that CAP had helped “remarkable” economic recovery in Ireland, Spain and Portugal in recent years. Furthermore, he added that visitors to the mid-west of America should compare the agricultural situation there to understand the advantages of CAP.

“I remain adamant that the stability that the CAP provides to the agricultural sector provides a massive boost to economic growth and jobs in rural areas and all the way up and down the food supply chain,” he concluded.

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