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EU PROPOSES TOUGHER ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS FOR AG PROGRAM

10/17/2011

EU officials proposed last week to toughen environmental standards in its expensive farm subsidy policies as part of major changes to the 58 billion euro system. The European Commission proposed a number of changes to the Common Agricultural Program, which cost 47 percent of the whole EU budget last year, to "strengthen the competitiveness, sustainability and permanence of agriculture throughout the EU in order to secure for European citizens a healthy and high-quality source of food, preserve the environment and develop rural areas." Among the environmental measures, the EC proposed to add criteria to subsidies including requirements that farmers diversify crops and leave some fields fallow, and that they ensure permanent pasture. According to the BBC, the changes are designed to move the program away from intensive farming to more sustainable practices. The environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth warned that the changes would have "devastating consequences for rainforests, the climate and some of the world's poorest people," as, the group says, changes do not do enough to change harmful farming practices. The changes will likely pit France, which is the EU's largest food producer, against the United Kingdom, which received about 7.1 percent of the agricultural budget last year, according to Bloomberg. The British government, part of the "reformist bloc" that has called for a reduction in the overall size of the program, said that the reforms should focus more on biodiversity and food security. For the BBC story, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15272815. For the Bloomberg story on a likely fight between France and the United Kingdom, see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-11/eu-farm-policy-debate-pits-france-against-u-k-.html.