Farm reform vital after WTO failure, says Beckett

By Philip Thornton
Saturday 04 January 2014 05:44
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Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Agriculture, will insist negotiations to hammer out a global trade deal are still on track despite the failure to hit a deadline for an agreement on agriculture.

The World Trade Organisation admitted on Friday that talks had broken down over the terms of a deal to cut farm subsidies paid out by the US, Europe and Japan. The failure to strike a deal by today's deadline is being seen as a major blow because agriculture was seen as a test case of the willingness of the rich countries to make concessions.

Ms Beckett will use a farming conference in London to urge the 145 nations involved in the talks to "redouble their efforts". She is expected to tell the Agra Europe conference: "This is very disappointing and serious but it does not represent a breakdown or a crisis. All sides remain committed to the Doha mandate and all sides have confirmed they are fully involved in negotiations. We have to redouble our efforts."

Ms Beckett will also use the conference to push for deeper reform of Europe's common agricultural policy. She will publish an analysis produced by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) showing that radical reform could deliver £500m a year of benefits to the UK.

The European Commission is proposing ending the system wheredairy farmers receive $2 a day for each cow they own, more than the amount earned by half of the world's population. It also proposes cutting subsidies to some crops and shifting subsidies away from farm production and into areas such as environmentally friendly farming. Defra's analysis measures the cost and benefit to taxpayers, farmers and consumers and includes an estimate of the environmental gains for less intensive farming and the creation of more fallow land. Overall, it finds the UK will benefit by between €600m and €900m (£360m-£540m) a year while the EU as a whole will gain €4.9bn to €5.6bn (£3bn-£3.3bn).

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