By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 – EU Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş said Wednesday that food security and price volatility topped his agenda in a series of meetings this week with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in DC and with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in New York. He said the two issues are closely related since commodity price volatility not only is “very negative for the income of farmers” but also threatens global food security.
As part of the EU effort to address speculation-driven price volatility, Cioloş said the first ever meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers is scheduled for June in Paris to discuss ways to improve market information and transparency.
Cioloş said his talks in Washington also covered the 2012 Farm and planned reforms to the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). While not commenting on what he'd like to see in the next U.S. Farm Bill, he said the EU is moving forward on CAP reforms scheduled to be finalized in 2012 and implemented in 2014. He explained that the EU is likely to shift away from direct farm support payments to focus instead on achieving environmental, climate and rural development objectives through payments which incentivize farmers to pursue “good management of natural resources.” He said budget concerns are likely to affect farm policy on both sides of the Atlantic. Accordingly, he expects EU's future direct payments to be capped, saying it's “difficult to explain to the taxpayers” why the CAP is paying “millions of Euros” to large farming operations.
Cioloş confirmed that Vilsack raised the issue of Europeans' concerns about biotechnology and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food imports from the U.S. Cioloş said the EU is discussing “tolerance levels” but that regardless of any government decisions, European consumers' strong cultural attitudes about food quality mean that EU consumers don't want GMOs in their food supply. He said government can't impose GMOs on consumers who “have the right to their choice of food . . . to decide what they want to assimilate in their stomachs.”
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