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Last 23rd of June, thousands of French farmers went to Paris, the capital, to protest and demand a better recognition and economic compensation of their work. This mobilization took place in parallel to discussions on the final phase of negotiations on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU) in 2014.
One of the key points of these negotiations is the allocation of subsidies, which still today stimulates many differences in the various EU institutions. We interviewed a member of Friends of the Earth (FOE) in Europe, Stanka Becheva, who works for the Food, Agriculture & Biodiversity Programme. According to Becheva, this legislation is currently promoting competitiveness and giving the biggest part of the European subsidies to multinationals and large-scale farms, instead of supporting small-scale, sustainable farming. And the reform that is being negotiated now does not really seem to bring deep changes.
"What we have seen is that in the last decades European Agricultural Policy has been rather supporting industrialization of farming and multinational large-scale farmers", she said.
For instance, it has been planned that the allocation of 30% of the subsidies will be linked to environmental criteria, such as crop diversification for a greater respect of the environment, which, according to Stanka, seems very weak. She recognized that an agreement was reached about giving more support for small-scale and young farmers, but the reality is that Member States will keep the power to themselves in order to decide if they are to apply it.
Among the major challenges European farmers are currently facing, there is, added to the rising global food demand, a production threatened by pressure on land and water resources, as well as climate change and market volatility. In addition, the increased concentration in the retail food sector also has the effect of shrinking the income of farmers. Large-scale industrial agriculture, which has greatly benefited from CAP subsidies, and other activities unrelated to food production are largely responsible for the deterioration of soil and water resources, affecting especially smallholders and family farmers. They are currently less organized than the biggest farmers, noted Stanka, and that is why today they have more difficulties to be heard by European politicians.
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