No tomatoes, and you get a Maserati

Related Topics
THE Common Agricultural Policy, an observer's guide to the process of European self-sufficiency in food.

THROUGH a combination of target price, intervention and threshold pricing, farm revenues are pushed towards levels determined by the EC Council of Ministers.

Thus, farmers grow a tomato and the Council of Ministers pays them for two tomatoes. Paradoxically, this does not encourage the farmers to halve production in times of plenty, it encourages them to double it. This is clearly unsatisfactory to the Council of Ministers as it introduces a dangerous long-term insecurity into the supply and demand model and this will ultimately threaten the regular supply of tomatoes. Farmers are therefore lobbying the legislature to ease the long-term threat to the supply situation by paying them for three tomatoes for every tomato they grow, in which case they could immediately treble production.

The set-aside policy is better still, as it pays farmers for every tomato they do not grow. The resulting tomato famine drives the price of tomatoes through the roof and allows farmers to buy land that is wholly unsuitable for growing tomatoes, thus helping resolve the problem of unpopular tomato surpluses.

Tomato surpluses drive the world price of tomatoes down, thereby impoverishing tomato- based economies in Africa. At the same time, subsidies that create the surpluses keep the price of domestic tomatoes up, impoverishing consumers.

Subsidy money has become essential to the market mechanism and is invested by the agricultural sector in many ways - none more profitable than the labour-intensive process of rooting out hedges. The soil structure quickly becomes unstable and topsoil blows away. This renders the farmer eligible for a disaster grant. Such grants have created a lively market in disaster, and the most profitable farms in Europe now have no topsoil at all. This accords with the long-term strategy of the Council of Ministers, as farms without topsoil have optimum conditions for not growing tomatoes.

Beyond market gardening there is the question of ruminant meat. Farmers call this sheep. In northern Europe even gardeners call this sheep, as their 10-acre plots yield a respectable living from these animals, owing to the Council of Ministers' decision to pay them for ten sheep for every one sheep they fatten. During long winters the beasts double as capital investment and bed warmers. Being so valuable, the sheep commonly share the facilities of the house with the farmer's family, and, in exceptional circumstances, may be privately educated with the children. They rarely pass their kill-by date, no matter what their proficiency in irregular verbs.

Ruminant meat is an essential part of the agricultural economy; as well as providing every peasant farmer with his birthright of a Maserati, sheep are also a vital element in the long- term strategy of the sector. If governments, for instance, suggest reducing the sheep subsidy, sheep farmers drive their flocks into the centre of town and slaughter them on the steps of the parliament building.

The protest is telegenic and has always been successful to date. Farmers frequently stage this protest in solidarity with tomato farmers as they can also pick up a large disaster grant for sudden stock depletion.

Other grants are made on the basis of atmospheric conditions: drought, deluge and all weather in between. If it is sunny with rainy periods, or rainy with sunny periods, or cloudy and windy but not very wet, or very wet with low cloud and high winds, farmers can do only one thing: apply to the Council of Ministers for compensation.

In France, where Dadaists have taken over the French policy machine, farmers are paid for one tomato for every snail they don't grow, which is why every tomato farmer has a Maserati in his harvester shed instead of a tomato harvester.

As well as not growing tomatoes, the surreal agriculturalists plant light bulbs and micturate over them in many colours. Although critics are sceptical about admitting tomato farmers into the genre of performance art, the Council of Ministers is excited by this daring mix of culture and agriculture.

You might think Dadaism would look strange as an element of the Common Agricultural Policy, but you couldn't be further from the mark.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'