Letter: Heal our ruined countryside

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The Independent Online
Sir: The European Commission's draft proposals for radical reform of the notorious Common Agricultural Policy ("Europe to end farms madness", 9 July) show a welcome streak of common sense.

Their emphasis on shifting away from the wasteful intervention and farm price support systems and replacing them by direct payments to farmers reflects what the National Consumer Council and others have been advocating for over 10 years. Such a shift would release every family in the EU from the expensive multiple burden of the CAP - artificially high food prices, lower-quality produce and reduced choice - which costs British families over pounds 20 a week.

But consumers should not hold their breath. It is a long haul from a draft Commission proposal to getting such radical change through the Council of Agricultural Ministers, which in practice sponsors the interests of farmers. Previous attempts at fundamental reform of the CAP have foundered at this hurdle, to be replaced by tinkering and tweaks.

If the Commission's plans are to stand any real chance of coming through the EU policy-making machinery intact, that machinery must itself be reformed so that the farming lobby isn't the only influential voice.



National Consumer Council

London SW1