France backs tougher standards as replacement for farm subsidies

25th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

25 October 2007, LONDON, Oct 25, 2007 (AFP) - France will push for tougher EU standards on food safety and quality to protect the bloc's agriculture industry from "unfair competition," the country's agriculture minister said in an interview published Thursday.

25 October 2007

LONDON, Oct 25, 2007 (AFP) - France will push for tougher EU standards on food safety and quality to protect the bloc's agriculture industry from "unfair competition," the country's agriculture minister said in an interview published Thursday.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Michel Barnier added that France "may accept" reducing payments to large farms as part of the EU's common agriculture policy (CAP) if that money were directed to "mechanisms to stabilise the market."

Among those mechanisms were income insurance for farmers and subsidised private storage of excess produce.

According to Barnier, competition from overseas agriculture producers was "not always fair" because they did not have to routinely comply with EU-standard environmental and health regulations, adding that European farmers were held hostage to "big international speculation" in commodity markets.

"We have to be very intransigent on products trying to enter in terms of ensuring they meet these standards," Barnier told the business daily.

He said that France wanted to kick off a debate on the CAP, which has to be reformed in 2013, when it takes over the EU's rotating presidency in the second half of 2008.

The FT reported that Barnier said that, even with reform, France backed a well-funded CAP because of the "positive externalities" of food safety and security, better environmental protection and countryside management.

He said France would "have a problem" with attempts to scrap all market-based support and payments to farmers, which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proposed to do by 2020.

AFP

Subject: French news

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