Cap: reason for its introduction


The idea of having a Common Agricultural Policy emerged in 1960, two years after the original members of the EEC had signed the Treaty of Rome.

It was 1962 before the European Commission came forward with a general proposal that the Cap be based on the three major principles - market unity, community preference and financial solidarity.

It was born out of a need to provide farmers with a reasonable standard of living to keep them on the land, as there was wholesale abandonment of the country and people crowded into the cities to taste the new post-war affluence. It was argued that such a policy would deliver food security to a Europe which had known real hunger during the second World War.

Broadly welcomed at the time, the policy became central to the community, but in time grew to be monster when farmers began to use the new technologies that were available and we saw the growth of beef and butter mountains and milk and wine lakes.

At one stage in the 1980s, the Cap accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the EU budget and that was recognised as unsustainable by then EC agriculture commissioner Ray MacSharry.

By 1992 he had agreed the first major reforms of the system, which saw the subsidies being part switched from farm production to the farmer. That process has continued with the last reform of the Cap, Agenda 2000, which was reviewed last year and has now seen a total break in the link between farm produce and subsidies.

At almost €40 billion, the Cap now accounts for just over 40 per cent of the EU budget.

Seán MacConnell