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President Chirac, I beg you

by Jerome a Paris Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 01:40:26 AM EST

Please, stop blaming others for your failings.

Yes, Blair was selfish, but so were you. Worse, you spent all your capital defending narrow, outdated goals, i.e. subsidies for your agri-business pals. How has this anything to do with Europe? And how has this even anything to do with France's national interest when it focuses only on a very narrow - if noisy - group?

Blame Blair all you want, but at least he defended a real UK interest (the rebate), and the ensuing crisis gets him ever closer to his vision of a minimalist Europe that cares only about free trade. He has no ambition for Europe whatsoever, and you are playing into his hands like the pathetic incompetent you have always been.

Building a political Europe requires ambition, leadership and the willingness to compromise. You have never shown any of these traits, always preferring brinkmanship for short term gains that have resulted in strategic decline for France and for the European idea.

So, President Chirac, I beg you: take the last chance to make something out of your presidency, to be remembered as something else than a frantic failure - by pushing for a real reform of the CAP. You're ideally placed to get the French agro mafia to swallow it, being its boss. Get the CAP to focus on environmentally sound practices and to the long term survival of the small farmers, and nothing else. Stop the massive subsidies to the big players that don't need it. And take that issue that pollutes everything France does in Europe out of the table. If you do that, you could actually push for some really ambitious ideas in Europe in other policy areas - and have some credibility to do so.

Look at the press this morning. The Euroskeptics blame you, Chirac, with your pal Schroder for the failure, argue that this is but a lame attempt to distract voters from your domestic failures, and crowing that we are getting closer to the Europe that the peoples "really" want: the minimalist one. The pro-European papers are just as critical of both sides, but also agree that this plays in the hands of Blair and his narrow vision of Europe. In their view, selfishness form him is nothing new, but not the standards for supposedly "core Europeans". Everybody notes how the new European countries made more efforts -were more European - than all the rich countries did to try to find a compromise.

Are you actually a stooge of Blair? Is this really what you want - to give him the keys to a hollow Europe?

I beg you: do something. Show some spine. Make some real sacrifices for the greater good and maybe, maybe, you will leave a decent legacy. This is your last chance.


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Amen.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 01:45:59 AM EST
I'm not kwowledgeable yet about the "CAP", nor about the agro biz subsidies...but thanks for calling Chirac out! The current "leaders" aren't leading...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 02:44:24 AM EST
Jerome,  I do think we need to be a little more sceptical about the free-traders attack on the CAP.

The origins of the CAP lie in the recognition after WW2 that Europe needed food security.  That, as a region, it could not depend excessively on longdistance trade for the supply of its food.  

I believe that continues to be a worthwhile policy goal for Europe (and indeed for all regions of the world).  Europe should continue to supply a significant part of its own food, and the only way to do this is to arrange a cross-subsidy between, for example Jerome ;-) the absurdly over-remunerated service sector of bankers and corporate employees, and the agricultural sector (and indeed heavy industry).

The goal of a balanced national and regional economies remains a worthwhile one-- the fucking free-traders believe that somehow the whole world will kumbya-style balance out and meet its collective needs.  It will never work efficiently: that is why sovereign nations have to plan their national economies in the collective interests, and why regional groups have to secure balanced economies (a mixture of agriculture, industry, and services) within themselves.

We cannot know if at some future moment of world history that rising energy costs, or some ecological disaster elsewhere, would either destroy one of the worlds breadbaskets (eg. the American, Canadian, Brazilian agroindustry) or make the supply or transport of food uneconomic or insecure.  

The CAP is also about the preservation of the land in agriculture, the preservation of farming skills, and the preservation of the beauty of the landscape
(such as those beautiful wheatfields in Normandie in the photograph you posted on your war memorial story)

by Aruac on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 02:52:35 AM EST
No, the CAP should be about "the preservation of the land in agriculture, the preservation of farming skills, and the preservation of the beauty of the landscape". What it is really about is transferring large amounts of money to large industries that don't need it to carry out industrial farming that is directly harmful to all the positive things the CAP could do. It is a tool for buying the votes of rural populations and their children that feel guilty about moving to the big city and have a romantic view of what happens in the countryside. In any case, the EU gets blamed for every problem in rural areas even though they pump in huge amounts of money.

Europe should continue to support the agricultural sector, but in a way consistent with the aims you outline above. They should cap the subsidies at a certain size of farm. They should insist on a move towards sustainable farming. They should insist on ethical, respectful and sustainable treatment of animals. They should stop subsiding industries - like sugar - which make no economic sense without the subsidies. And, on a slightly unrelated rant, if we're paying for the countryside they should insist that hikers have access to it.

If the aim is to maintain a population in rural Europe with a sensible standard of living it would probably be cheaper to simply pay them all money directly.

Don't get me wrong though: the free-market morons can take a running leap.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:39:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your analysis is right on, Colman. I'll only add one thing: The execrable export subsidies necessitated by the gross overproduction of food, leading to the indefensible dumping of agroproducts in Africa at the expense of local produce. A stain on Europe's name, if you ask me.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:09:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sirocco:

that's why I favour the rights of African and Third World states to impose tariff barriers to prevent the dumping of both agricultural and industrial products.

by Aruac on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:15:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of the arguments being made in this thread about CAP are similar to the arguments I have been hearing from the British government for the last couple of weeks.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:21:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You'll find little disagreement from me with what is said about the CAP in the UK. The CAP as it is currently run is a massive waste of resources and, worst of all from my point of view, a criminal drain on France's political capital in Europe.

But it IS, for political reasons, one of the political foundations of the EU and the UK's insistence to dismantle it is also seen as yet another attempt to break whatever political institutions exist at the EU level, to replace with nothing.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:33:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Had there been real reform of CAP in 2002 then I believe that the UK would be well on the way to joining the Euro. The Chirac inspired stich up knocked the wind out of the sails of Britain's europhiles. There was a palpable sense of disgust in the UK about the 2002 CAP agreement in the UK ( it was percieved as featherbeding for French farmers ).

This was when Blair and Chirac really feel out ( the Iraq war sealed the deal on their new found mutual antipathy ).

I have never felt that the UK wants to destroy European institutions. I am not sure where people on the continent get this idea.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 06:11:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right -- it's that "replace with nothing" that matters.

The CAP needs reforming, not busting.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 04:52:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's because the current CAP is such a bloody mess that it's easy to find problems with it. The basic principal of the CAP is sound, it's just the implementation that's stupid and wasteful
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:46:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman, maybe Europe, given its high labour costs, which are part of the price it pays for a healthy society, needs to subsidize its agrobusiness too?

If food security is a goal, then Europe needs agrobusiness too, and it might give to need those productive entities a leg-up in a world economy where its competitors can depend on cheap labour and massive direct or indirect subsidies.

God knows that the USA send massive support to its farmers (who are happily draining the continental aquifer dry), and while Brazil does not provide cash subsidies to its mega soya and citrus farmers, it gives them massive subsidies in kind by allowing them land at low costs and not regulating labour wages or conditions.  

by Aruac on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:12:29 AM EST
I'd be willing to keep on subsidising agro-business, maybe, just maybe, if they took care not to pollute our rivers, not to cheat on standards of hygiene, animal care, etc, and not to produce only the crappiest stuff they can get away with.

It makes sense to pay for good food, not to pay for bad food, and then pay again to clean up water, pay again to help distroyed communities in Africa that cannot compete with industrial agro exports, and pay for the general sense of entitlement and lack of accountability of these people. (And see at the same time the samll farmers go through unbelievable pain and sacrifice because their causes - and subsidies - are hijacked by the agro industrial complex, which treat them like foot soldiers)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:38:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, we should subsidise agriculture in pursuit of things like food security and a healthy society. That's what we both said. Blindly throwing money at big agri-business is not good for either.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:44:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Yes, we should subsidise agriculture in pursuit of things like food security and a healthy society. That's what we both said. Blindly throwing money at big agri-business is not good for either. "

As a North American living in the belly of the beast... smack dab in the middle of our agri-industrial complex... you don't want to be subsidizing big agri-business. Believe me... we been there...HELL WE ARE THERENOW... and it sucks.

On the other hand subsizing good small cheese makers... I am all in favor of that. And wine... and olives... and local produce...

Let the morons outside my town make the crappy frankenfood... the ag commodity business is just one more race to the bottom from what I can tell.

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." - Peter Steiner

by dryfly (jjwhodat at hotmail dot com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 09:25:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aruac said... "God knows that the USA send massive support to its farmers (who are happily draining the continental aquifer dry), and while Brazil does not provide cash subsidies to its mega soya and citrus farmers, it gives them massive subsidies in kind by allowing them land at low costs and not regulating labour wages or conditions."

You have no idea how bad it is where they are drawing down 'the Ogallalah'... that aquifer you mentioned. In some places the water table has dropped 600 feet... Some of the rivers... like the Platte in Nebraska that used be 'an inch deep and a mile wide'... are almost dry.

Lastly - where there is water, it is often terribly polluted... even the ground water. There are so many abandoned farms (as folks leave the land for the city) with old wells that the farm run off easily finds its way into the aquifer. Parts of Missouri River basin have the most polluted ground water in America... and they aren't even close to a city.

I frequent all these areas as part of my job... it is like the biological equivalent of Chernobyl. Not that bad yet but heading that way... You might have heard of the Buffalo Commons movement...it isn't that far fetched.

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." - Peter Steiner

by dryfly (jjwhodat at hotmail dot com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:13:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The CAP arguments really beg the quetion as to whther the current structure of large agribusiness is sustainable, not just for the land but for the health of the EU's citizens as well. There are excamples after examples of the current foodstuff available and the relative quantities they are easten being unhealthy. Increased use of highly processed foods for example has been shown to be long term cancer risks and, for children, have demonstrable effects on the academic achievment and behaviour.

As oethers have made clear, the small family farmer is also dependent on trickle-down from the large subsidies given to big agribussiness farms to make sure their income is sustainable. Thus we are paying cast sums to support big business in order to get relatively small amounts to those we really wish to support. Redirection of the CAP support to "citta slow" type small farm production would have health, taste and environmental benefits and actually promote the sort of lifestyle the French farm lobby is trying to retain. They would end up producing possible a little less quantity but geting far more money for it.

Those large farms that depend on high mechanisation and are raping the soil would not longer get ther subsidies. Ideally this would mean that they would move away from "fake" food production (like UK farmers growing beet for processing into refined sugar thus pricing out sugar cane growers) into producing fuel crops like rape and sunflowere that could be used as biofuel. Allying this to carbon trading could well produce alternative income to replace food production subsidies.  

 

by Londonbear on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 05:12:14 AM EST
"The CAP arguments really beg the quetion as to whther the current structure of large agribusiness is sustainable, not just for the land but for the health of the EU's citizens as well."

It isn't sustainable... not anywhere. Not in Europe, not in North America... no where.

I drove across about 200 miles of some of the US's best farm country yesterday... This is the land people from Europe travelled so far to get a piece of... that was then, this is now.

A week ago or so we had HUGE rains and the fields were a disaster - gullies & wash outs.

Here in the American Midwest farms have gotten biger and bigger... where I live it is now not uncommon for a farm to be 2500 acres (10 sq km) or more and operated by one person... heavily automated and heavily in debt.

Margins are so low that even farm spouses usually work jobs in town to supplement the farm incomes. Crazy.

But Cargil & Conagra & ADM... etc., they are doing great... as are the financial institutions 'enabling' this madness.

Anyway the fields are so big that if we get a heavy rain there is little to stop all the soil from washing away... and that is what I saw for miles. The best farm land in the world is washing down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico... leaving the 'Heartland' sterile and killing the Gulf of Mexico to boot.

And if people don't think subsidies to big corporate agriculture isn't playing a role in all this... think again.

Maybe all our farmers will someday have to go back to Europe to find fertile land to work... what irony.

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." - Peter Steiner

by dryfly (jjwhodat at hotmail dot com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 09:40:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure quite where to get into this excellent thread, but here seems a good place because Londonbear makes the point that a reformed CAP directed towards small farm support as opposed to agribusiness support would actually promote the sort of lifestyle the French farm lobby is trying to retain.

This is right insofar as the image that the French farm lobby likes to give of itself is one associated with the "terroir" and all the goodies produced by the different French regions. But in fact the French farm lobby is... agribusiness itself, which pursues the industrialization of farming and the production of over-processed and often noxious foodstuffs. The trompe l'oeil is nowhere better on display than at the annual Agricultural Show in Paris, where that #!°##! Chirac breezes around tasting all the good things and perpetuating the myth of the small, traditional skills-based, sustainable, high-quality family farm, of which in fact there are so few left today and which the CAP as administered in France does little to support. Much more profitable, in Londonbear's well-chosen example, to produce highly-subsidized sugar beet, than more useful crops.

This said, Blair's frontal attack on the CAP, opposed to Chirac's on the rebate, is just grandstanding. This is too big a machine, it's been going on too long, and it's matched by heavy subsidies to American agricultural production. Changing it will take time and diplomacy, and, let's hope, intelligence. Making it into a casus belli is likely to be counterproductive.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 04:42:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, all...learning a lot in the process.

What can be done to change the CAP so that it supports the small farmer better? What is the recourse? The European Parliament?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 07:04:22 AM EST
Get the CAP to focus on environmentally sound practices and to the long term survival of the small farmers, and nothing else. Stop the massive subsidies to the big players that don't need it.

We could say the same about US agricultural policies.  Sugar, cotton, even tobacco gets special treatment in the US.  Meanwhile, a handful of big companies monopolise more an more of the food chain.  The National Farmer's Union has a short study on the concentration of agricultural markets.
by corncam on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 07:54:43 AM EST
Very slightly off topic, but to what extent will 'peak oil' be correlated with 'peak food', to the extent that agrobusiness everywhere (which whether we like it or not produces food in significant volumes to feed the rich countries) is highly petroleum-dependent.

What happens when the prices both of the energy used in growing food and transporting it around the world, and of petro-inputs like fertilizers, begin to rise drastically?

Another 'peak food' worry is the undiscussed crisis of the water table in North America and in former Soviet Central Asia.  Regions which the world has depended on for food and agro-raw materials may lose the ability to be the world's breadbaskets.

by Aruac on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 08:28:28 AM EST
I'm not expert on this, but the reference normally given is the experience in Cuba. They got cut off from the inputs for industrial agriculture when the Soviet Union fell apart and apparently do OK without.

Agribusiness isn't even especially efficient. It's just much easier and less labour intensive.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 08:46:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coleman has it right.

I worked in the biz right out of college... it is all about 'cheap, now' and not about sustainability... and the best way to do that in a 'high labor cost society' is to nix the labor...

The factory I worked in produced fuel alcohol... we processed 350,000 bu of corn (maize) everyday... I believe that is approximately 1000 cu meters per day... anyway  A LOT.

We had our own powerplant... whole facility was estimated to cost about a billion dollars (1980s dollars at that)...

We ran 24X7 365 days a year except on leap years it was 366 days a year. We tracked all down time due to power outages (prairie storms & such) & it was usually no more than 20-30 hours per year.

And we employed less than 200 people... including support & management... covering all those shifts.

Your European leaders are on drugs and every bit as traitorous as our leaders if the take you down that path.

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." - Peter Steiner

by dryfly (jjwhodat at hotmail dot com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 09:55:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Amen.  I am really, really upset at Blair and Chirac. I also agree with your other post that Blair should have compromised for the sake of the Europe he claims to support.

On the other hand, I understand the historical role of the CAP, but it shouldn't be the foundation of the EU anymore.  It can't be gotten rid of overnight but it should be slowly pared down. It is a remarkably inefficient use of money.  

In Poland I'd strongly support the funding of mid size farmers to help them adapt to the market and to EU food industry regulations. But that's it and it should be in the context of development funds for the horribly poor rural regions (yeah Poland is cheaper than the West, but raising a family on $150-200 still means abject poverty)  

If anyone who reads this has any say in these matters please consider one measure that would help stop the transformation of the small peasantry into a permanent underclass. School buses.  Right now in much of the countryside children are effectively barred from progressing beyond elementary school since the middle and high schools are too far a way to walk. No school buses, no public transport and obviously you can't afford to own a car, or for that matter drive it on 150-200 a month in cash income.  Their parents way of life is doomed. Their is simply no way a couple hectare farm can be viable.  They cannot move to the cities where the jobs are because the rents are much too high. The situation is heartbreaking.

by MarekNYC on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:04:15 AM EST


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