European survey supportive of EU farms

    View from Across the Pond
    By: John Strak
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    The customer is always right


    (The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)
    A few weeks ago I wrote about farmers' need to listen to customers. European politicians also need to listen to customers (voters) and the results of a recent EU survey will give them some guidance as to what the customers want (and remember that customers/voters are also taxpayers).

    You might think that Europe's consumers want to get rid of Europe's farm policy. That is the accepted wisdom since all the commentators (economists) observe that Europe's farmers are paid more to do less and produce food at prices significantly higher than world prices.

    Why would consumers support such a policy? The paradox is that even after 40 years of (expensive) farm policy Europe's voters have not substantially dismantled the policy. The arguments about Europe's farm policy were given a new twist last week with the release of a survey of European consumers. The survey asked questions about farm policy and farmers. The Eurobarometer survey of consumer attitudes polled 27,000 consumers in the 27 nations of the EU.

    What did the survey say? Well, quite a lot and I encourage you to read it. (

    Here are a few choice results:

    Surprisingly for some, 90 percent of Europe's consumers said that they think agriculture and the rural areas are important for the future. Indeed, a majority said that they supported Europe's farm policy (the CAP). The survey also found that there is an overall desire for the EU to manage key issues like environmental protection (65 percent), securing food supply (53 percent) and ensuring that agricultural products are of good quality, healthy and safe (51 percent).

    A large majority of EU citizens (83 percent) said they were in favour of the EU continuing to support farmers' income. Indeed, 68 percent thought that the current budget for agriculture and rural development is either adequate or insufficient! Four in every ten respondents (39 percent) would like the financial support to farmers to increase over the next ten years, which also is an increase (+10 percent) compared with previous surveys.

    A large majority of those polled (82 percent) said that the EU should help farmers to change they way they work in order to fight climate change. Seventy seven percent believed that farming will suffer a lot from the effects of climate change in the future. Most respondents (67 percent) think that EU farmers need to alter the way they farm so that they can fight climate change, even if that means that EU agriculture will be less competitive. Remarkably, the survey found that Europeans are willing to pay their share to achieve these aims. About six in ten respondents (58 percent) are ready to pay 10 percent more for agricultural products if they are produced in a way that does not make climate change worse.
    There is a lot, lot more to the survey and it's worth a read if you want to know what European consumers think about farmers and how they want farm policy to be run. And, if the customer is always right there is no chance of the Europeans spending less on farm policy in the near future.

    April 14, 2010

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