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Agricultural subsidies
A piece of culture

France was the initiator of the PAC, the common agricultural policy in the EU. Today PAC ensures the diversity of food in many countries. What if the common agricultural policy were completely abandoned?

By Eric Bonse

Agricultural subsidies
Illustration: © Sara Quod

The common agricultural policy is one of the cornerstones of the European Union. It has been controversial since its founding in 1962; today even the American President Donald Trump has attacked allegedly unfair European agricultural subsidies. What would happen if the EU stopped supporting agriculture? 

Since the European Commission started reducing the share of agricultural aid in the EU budget, this question has been raised above all in and with respect to France. France initiated and has profited the most from the common agricultural policy (PAC). With a share of almost nine billion euros (2015), French farmers receive more than anyone else.

But German, Italian and Irish farmers are also on the Brussels drip. For many farmers, EU assistance is a guarantee that their farms can remain viable and compete in the marketplace. Without the subsidies, they would need national aid, or they would have to shut down.

Without local agricultural products, the variety and safety of food would be threatened

Renationalisation of agricultural policy, however, would lead to ruinous competition, which would benefit above all the large EU countries. The already disadvantaged rural regions would fall even farther behind. The cohesion of the EU and its members would be jeopardized.

And what would happen if the EU agricultural policy were completely abandoned? That's hard to say because such a scenario has never been discussed in Brussels. However, it is clear that the comparatively small-scale agriculture in Europe would have trouble keeping up with the huge farms in the USA.

Without local agricultural products, however, the variety and safety of food would also be threatened. French winegrowers would probably survive the end of the EU subsidies, pig and cattle breeders perhaps not. Olives from Spain or feta cheese from Greece would likewise be threatened. So it is not just about a lot of money, but also about an important piece of culture.