Farmers guarantee the stable supply of food, produced in a sustainable manner and at affordable prices, to more than 46 millions of Spanish citizens. The agricultural policy of Spain and, by extension, of the European Union should guarantee a fair standard of living for farmers at the same time as establishing requirements on animal health and welfare, defence of the environment and food safety. Sustainable rural development must complete the workings of the common agricultural policy of the European Union.

Spain has a total population of about 46 million people, of which 7.3% live in rural areas. Spanish farmers are around 266,000 contributors according to Social Security data and the agri-food industry is one of the main economic sectors of the country in terms of employment, turnover and exports.

Until 2020, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will invest almost 45 million euros[1] in the agricultural sector and rural areas of Spain. However, the apparent contradiction is shown that it is more beneficial for the State than for the agricultural sector strictly. This is due to the fact that one of the main contributions of the CAP has been the arrival in the Spanish public coffers of an important budget item, of which only a part has served to correct the weak points of the sector that are, in general, structural and social.

The CAP has not reduced the great inequalities between farms, not prevented the exodus or the agony of the rural environment, not compensated by the results of the environmental laws, has not promoted the restructuring and not avoided the degeneration of the natural and natural resources.

The CAP has served as bait to achieve the domestication of the agricultural sector in its claims in the absence of protection policies aimed at correcting price speculation in agricultural and livestock production.

The CAP was designed to promote an agricultural model – bases in the French and German models - but in Spain it has not served to guarantee a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector in the medium and long term.

Given this situation and if we join the current crisis, the dimension of the challenges and the complexity of the problems obliges us to make the agrarian policy a State policy; a national policy with firm and quantifiable objectives aimed to maintain the functions of agriculture. Otherwise, the decline of the rural environment will be something more than a reality soon.

Implementation measures for urgent need should be based on the following ten major objectives:

1.- Increase the competitiveness of the agricultural sector. 

An increase in competitiveness would entail an administrative policy that facilitates the use of natural resources (water and soil), a restructuring of farms, tax reductions in the organization of farmers, a reduction in energy costs, investment plans in training and new technologies, the promoting differentiation through certified quality systems, and tax facilities for internationalization and export promotion.

2.- Improvement and potentization of agricultural insurance. 

The sector is convinced of the utility of the agricultural insurance, although they ask for improvements and more help so that farmers can face insurance..

It is necessary to improve their financing, extend insurances to all products, propose your possible obligation to improve your strength, take advantage of economies of scale, and their adaptation to the climate change variable.

Promote "positive discrimination" towards agrarian organizations in the face of the advantages that the system provides to other mediators, since these are the ones that hold the representation of farmers and ranchers to advise and request assistance.

It is necessary an increase of the state budgetary allocation destined to the agrarian insurance to reduce the cost of the policies based on a principle of solidarity, between different sectors and territories. Finally, to reject the proposals aimed at future private insurance of prices and rents, as we understand that this type of insurance does not solve the precarious profitability that the farms face as a result of price speculation in the market.    

3.- Measures to avoid market volatility. 

Spain must demand from the EU a change in the course of its policy of market deregulation and trade liberalization, and establish effective mechanisms that stabilize agricultural markets and guarantee fair prices for farmers to cover their production costs. It has been shown that the market itself is not sufficiently effective to mitigate the effects of high volatility. Faced with this reality, Spain must equip itself with agile and efficient tools to respond to this situation. It is necessary to use as instruments the price intervention, in an updated way, and the storage of products, as well as emergency reserves. The application of the new free trade agreements (TTIP, CETA, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, etc.) have serious impacts on our agriculture and food. In all of these free trade agreements, the model of family farming, sustainable, of small and medium-sized farms, which is the majority in Europe, is endangered, benefiting the interests of the industrial model of distribution. There is an urgent need for its revision and in some cases its paralysis, since they directly affect the regulatory frameworks for food safety, environmental regulations, quality designations, and price volatility.    

4.- Promote the diversification of farmers' incomes, with investment aids.

5.- Framework agreements for the importation of fertilizers.

Natural fertilizers represent 30% of the variable costs of all sectors; this percentage is 40% in the case of cereals and 45% for oilseeds. It is necessary to have quality fertilizers at competitive prices. Neither Spain or the EU has sufficient production capacity to meet the demand for mineral fertilizers of our farmers, so they must be imported from other countries, it is important to maintain and diversify the sources of supply to have good quality fertilizers at competitive prices.

6.-Prioritize the Spanish agricultural policy on the Common Agricultural Policy. 

The determination of the Spanish criteria in the amount of subsidies must not be subject to the arbitrary will of the European Union. It is necessary a strong State that is capable of holding beneficial negotiations for our national interests with the aim of saving and improving the Spanish model of family farming.    

7.- Promote and recognize sustainable and multifunctional production, increasing the agricultural area protected and the incentives for farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices.

8.- Simplification and reduction of administrative burdens. 

It is necessary to simplify the administrative burdens (paperwork) that farmers suffer for the daily performance of their work. It is necessary to stop the explosion of regulatory norms that do not facilitate agility in the development of new agricultural operations and their subsequent development. Young farmers should be empowered and encouraged through tax exemption policies during their first years.    

9.- Public mechanisms to avoid abusive and unfair practices. 

It is essential to develop public mechanisms to combat unfair competition from imports of agricultural and food products that do not respect Spanish production standards in terms of food safety, animal welfare and the environment, as well as to avoid abusive practices and unfair (sale at a loss, blind auctions, etc.). A balance must be achieved between the competition rules, their management by the competent authorities and the regulation of the agri-food sector, setting the uniqueness or inapplicability of these standards in agricultural markets for their particularity, with sufficient legal and regulatory security. Agriculture needs a rebalancing of the agri-food value chain by imposing full traceability of geographical origin and place of processing on the labels in order to ensure transparency and comprehensive information for consumers.

10.- Economic patriotism and unity of action. 

Food sovereignty must be based on institutional economic support for Spanish agricultural products and reflected in the public procurement plans for our farmers, ranchers and fishermen. Our autonomic system generates inequalities in the control and regulation of our agriculture. It is required to establish a system of coordination and common decision making, now non-existent, that ensures a greater consistency of the policies adopted by the different autonomic governments. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment should be converted into the actual coordination terminal for the management of all the Autonomic Administrations at the service of the agri-food sector and the rural environment. Giving it authority and subordinating the other administrations to such coordination from the normative and executive point of view. It will not be easy to make Spain's agrarian policy a State policy. The Spanish agriculture is very heterogeneous, and in all the territories and in all the sectors it is urgent that the Administration exalts the agrarian profession. A new model of agrarian policy requires overcoming the well-timed administrative and budgetary status quo, devoting more resources to agriculture and applying the measures we have outlined. 

 

References

[1] Total allocation of direct payments and rural development for the period 2014-2020.  “CAP in your contry”. European Comission. 2016