Towards a New CAP

Slow Food President Carlo Petrini introduces the association’s newly released policy paper on the current reform of Europe’s agricultural policy to Comissioner Dacian Ciolos…

Dear Dacian Ciolos, Commissioner for EU Agriculture and Rural Development,

Europe is living through a phase in its history that will be crucial for its future. In a few days time, the Common Agricultural Policy reform process will come to life with the European Commission’s presentation of its legislative proposals.

In writing to you a year after our meeting at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin, I wish to call attention to the major challenges that Europe will be facing over the next few decades and to outline Slow Food’s vision.

The “Towards a New Common Agricultural Policy” document outlines the key changes that we believe should become the backbone of the new CAP in detail. In summary, we wish for a policy that is fairer, more ecological, more inclusive and more participatory.

Slow Food is concerned about some critical points in the present agrifood system and the ongoing crises of our time. There are some glaring inequalities that typify the redistribution of the resources of the first pillar among the different member States and types of production. The fact is that large-scale production absorbs most of the economic support to the detriment of small business.

Furthermore, a severe environmental and climate crisis looms over our present and – even more so – over our future. Every day we hear complaints from the Slow Food base about the employment level in the farming sector, which has dropped by 25 per cent over the last ten years, not to mention poor wages in the sector, which prevent many small producers from having decent lifestyles and carrying on with their businesses.

Finally, I must also point out that in recent decades the CAP has generated an unbalanced consumer model whereby, on the one hand, 90 million tones of food are wasted every year and more than 250 million European citizens are overweight, while, on the other,
42 million people live in conditions of extreme deprivation.

I am a great admirer of the work the European Commission has done and of the great personal commitment you have shown right from the very first day of your appointment. I am reassured in knowing you are at the helm of this important reform process. This is precisely why I hope the legislative proposals soon to be published will clarify in detail the vision that, according to the European Commission, should shape the agrifood system in the future and how it intends to provide a strong, resolute response to the critical points I’ve mentioned.

The subject is a complex one and, though I’m fully aware of the urgent
nature of the process, I do think it has to be addressed as thoroughly as possible. I believe, and I hope you do so too, that the goals of tomorrow’s CAP should be, first and foremost, economic, social and environmental sustainability and the promotion of a new rurality, with rural areas flourishing once again as vital centres of the agrifood system of the future.

In this sense, the new watchwords of the CAP should be “sustainable small-scale production” and “young people”. Europe has to recover its real roots in small-scale food production with low environmental impact, still widespread throughout its territory. I mean the type of production, integrated and in harmony with nature, that ensures nutritious, high quality food in a clean way and offers society a series of essential environmental services.

All this should translate into a restructuring of the CAP towards this type of production, thus reversing the trend in favor of agroindustry and concentrations of large industrial-style food production that has always been followed to date. It will also mean adopting a broad spectrum of measures, on the one hand fostering the creation of market channels for small producers, at once enacting food and environmental education programs and awareness-raising
campaigns, and on the other simplifying red tape to favor small-scale

“Young people”, the other watchwords, are a prerequisite: they will actually play the most important role of all. The figures speak for themselves: only 7 percent of farmers in Europe are younger than 35. What sort of CAP can we wish for and what sort of future can we hope for, if young people don’t start working in the countryside, learning agricultural knowledge and putting their love for their land into practice? The farming profession must hold the same dignity and importance as any other career option. It has to be a choice in
which people can invest for their future, one that offers satisfaction and self-realization, not just sacrifice and denial. It’s the CAP’s duty to intervene emphatically, boosting economic support to young people, accompanying them through the whole business process, supplying
them with technical assistance and helping to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next.

In conclusion, I repeat – as we said when we met in October last year – the period we are living through is a very delicate one for the future of food in Europe. Slow Food is committed to seeing its ideas about good, clean and fair sustainable food included as far as possible in the new CAP. For our part, I can assure you that we’ll be following the progress of the reform very closely and that we’ll be exploiting all the energies we have at our disposal to make sure we win what we consider to be a battle of civilization for the future.

Carlo Petrini
Slow Food International President

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