Proposals on how to save the European model of family farms

Proposals on how to save the European model of family farms in an enlarged Europe
– by Dr Caroline Lucas, Member of the European Parliament

(…)The case that I will make is that if enlargement is to be successful, it must be undertaken on more equitable terms, with sustainable development, rather than free trade, at its heart. The Greens in the European Parliament are making the case that the current EU enlargement strategy pushed forward by the Council and the Commission is, by and large, a simple free trade approach, which leaves the major burden of structural adjustment and the impact of economic liberalization on the candidate countries themselves.

Meanwhile, governments of the existing EU member states have wasted no time in setting out the forthcoming opportunities of enlargement for their own national business (…)
But what of the countries of central and eastern Europe themselves. What opportunities are they offered? Well, they are being told they must undergo stringent structural adjustment prior to accession. National economic policies must be harmonized with those set by the Union, and markets must be fully opened to Western goods, services, and investments. In short, governments are expected to give up control over their own economies – spelling destruction for many local businesses, and small farms (…)
I would argue that, instead of pursuing globalisation path of ever more ruthless free trade, we should build a Europe of strong regions, stressing more local production, local competition ,and the gradual re-introduction of regional protection, where necessary, against imports (…)
(…)That same free trade dogma is at the heart of the CAP. It ‘s very clear that the continuation of anything resembling today ‘s CAP, with its emphasis on so-called “efficient ” farming, would mean a massive loss of agricultural livelihoods in the inevitable intensification of the food system (…)
(…)If Poland were to follow the EU ‘s present policies, which discriminate small farms in favour of larger ones, then it has been calculated that about 1.2 million farmers would have to leave the land to create larger, more “viable ” units.
As more consumers, farmers and workers are experiencing the downsides of this process, now is the time to consider how it (CAP)can be replaced with the very different alternative of “localisation “.This will involve dramatically reducing world food trade, and instead relocalising production. Such a “Local Food, Global Solution ” approach would have as its goal to keep production much closer to the point of consumption and to help protect small farmers and rebuild local economies across Europe. It would include:

1. import controls to be gradually re-introduced to protect those goods which can be produced domestically from competition with imports which could otherwise threaten the rediversification of domestic agricultural systems
2. eco-taxation to ensure that the real costs of environmental damage, unsustainable production methods and long distance trade are included in the price of food
3. greater support for farmers to enable them to prosper and produce healthy food using environmentally sustainable farming methods
4. the ending of the long distance transport and live export of animals
5. the restriction of the concentration and market power of the major food corporations and retailers through new competition laws, fair prices to farmers and consumers (rather than low prices to farmers and high prices to consumers, as in the West), and encourage rural regeneration and employment
6. residual long distance trade in foods which cannot be produced in a region eg. coffe, tea, bananas, to follow the principle of “Fair Trade Miles “,combining the requirements of fair trade with food miles.
7. the re-orientation of the end goals of international trade and aid rules so that they contribute to the rebuilding of more sustainable local and national economies.

It is clear that the extension eastwards of improved social and environmental legislation, technology transfer and skills is crucial, as is the rebuilding of greater stability and security Europe-wide .I ‘m not contesting that. What I am contesting is the ability of the narrowly focused free-trade agenda at the heart of the current enlargement process to bring genuine sustainability and prosperity to the majority in Central and Eastern Europe.