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A Citizens’ Agricultural Policy

This Citizens’ Agricultural Policy campaign advocates for farming policies that work for citizens and are made with citizens – in Scotland, the UK, and Europe.

The Citizens’ Agricultural Policy campaign was launched at the Towards a Citizens’ Agricultural Policy event, which took place in Edinburgh on 22-23 October 2015. Download our Conference Report here. The conference demonstrated that there is a strong case and broad support for a democratic reform of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The report calls on everyone to become part of the movement for CAP reform in order to achieve a fairer, more democratic, and more sustainable Food and Farming Policy.

This call for mobilisation is extremely relevant in the wake of Brexit. If the UK leaves the EU and thereby the Common Agricultural Policy, it will be even more important for all citizens in the UK to mobilise and effectively campaign for better food and farming policies in Scotland and the rest of the UK as replacement to the CAP.

While our politicians try to figure out what to do with Brexit, understanding the CAP is a crucial first step to be able to act as soon as the opportunity comes to push for better food and farming policies – whether through a Europe-wide CAP reform, or through the creation of a whole new British or Scottish agricultural policy.

What is the Common Agricultural Policy?

When the UK joined the European Union (EU), policy powers for agricultural matters were transferred to the EU-level. This means that we joined the common market that existed for agricultural products as well as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which sets rules for, and distributes subsidies to, farmers in all EU Member States. Agriculture is one of the only policy fields that are entirely devolved to the European level and is therefore the largest EU policy – both in terms of budget (40% of EU budget is spent through the CAP) and in terms of reach.

The CAP was set up for very good reasons and was originally successful at fulfilling its objectives. After World War 2 Europe was hungry, agricultural productivity was low, and food prices were unstable. In 10 years, the CAP boosted food production and stabilised prices for farmers and consumers.

Today, Europe faces very different challenges. Hunger has been replaced by obesity and wastage. Low productivity has been replaced by an intensive model of farming that pollutes our soils, water and air, contributes to Greenhouse Gas Emissions, damages biodiversity, and makes us sick. Food prices are much lower for consumers, but in many cases too low at the farm gate and still unstable.

Yet, the fundamental objectives of the CAP – set out in the Treaty of Rome in 1957 – are mostly unchanged. The Policy itself has changed a lot over recent decades, but it is still not fit for purpose.

Resources on the CAP

Nourish briefing on the origins and the present content of the CAP

Nourish briefing on the policy-making process of the CAP

Video tutorials by Groupes de Bruges

CAPreform blog by Alan Matthews, Atila Jambor, Emil Erjavec, and others.

CAP news on ARC2020, a database of CAP recipients by Jack Thurston

We want a Citizens’ Agricultural Policy – what does that involve?

A more holistic approach

Agriculture should no longer be treated as a stand-alone issue. We need a policy that addresses agriculture and food and is informed by the wider context in which food is produced, processed, sold, and consumed. Public health and environmental concerns should be at the heart of future farming policies. We currently campaign for a Good Food Nation Bill that does just that; see more information about this campaign here.

Better governance and more democracy

The best way to ensure farming policies work for citizens, is to include citizens in the policy-making process. Farmers (not just their union) and citizens (not just major NGOs) should be involved in nation-wide debates about the future of food and farming. Do citizens want public money to keep supporting primarily large intensive farms? Do citizens want to continue subsidising the production of barley for whisky, rapeseed for biofuels, and beef fed by Brazilian soya, or would they rather their taxpayers’ money supports pesticide-free fruit and veg production? How do farmers think an agricultural policy can support them best to manage a viable business while producing food in a sustainable way?

A greener and healthier policyChilli Seedlings

A Citizens’ Agricultural Policy needs to support farmers who work in harmony with nature rather than against it. Tackling food waste (at all stages of supply chains), pollution, biodiversity decline, climate change, and supporting a shift towards healthier and more sustainable diets should all be at the heart of the new policy.

A fairer policy

CAP subsidies are currently distributed unevenly amongst farmers, both within and across EU countries. 70% of subsidies go to the 20% wealthiest farmers. CAP money is public money. Agricultural subsidies should be spent only to support farmers who deliver public goods – which can be social (care farming), cultural (preserving traditional landscapes), environmental (supporting biodiversity), or economic (creating jobs in rural areas). Farming subsidies should be distributed according to a fair system to reward good practice.


If you would like to be kept informed about this campaign, sign up to our Citizens’ Agricultural Policy mailing list here


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