What does the Common of Common Agricultural Policy really mean? Very basically, it means that in the late 1950s, the then 6 members of the European Economic Community decided to create a common market for certain agricultural products, and by the same token agreed to agree on one single, common agricultural policy. Quite simple.
However, nowadays the 28 EU Member States do not agree to agree anymore, they have become wary of the ‘one size fits all’ approach. As a consequence, the Common Agricultural Policy has become less common to the benefit of “flexibility”. This flexibility means that although there is still a common policy framework for the whole of the EU, national authorities have gained significant leeway in how they implement such framework. In the UK, agricultural policy is a devolved matter. This means that the Scottish government is responsible for implementing the CAP and taking decisions in the 80 areas of flexibility.
This is a great opportunity. This increased flexibility gives our governments enough room for maneuver to take decisions that will make a real difference on the ground. We, then, have an important role to play: making sure our politicians do the right thing. Of course, it is not only about small changes ‘in the margins’. There will be another reform of the CAP. When the time comes, citizens and civil society in all EU countries need to be ready to hold their government accountable for the policies they stand for in Brussels. The aim of Nourish’s conference Towards a Citizens’ Agricultural Policy is to discuss this two-fold action plan.
As case studies, we will be exploring how cities and youth movements can engage with food and agricultural policy and become real forces for change. For the session on grassroots movements on Thursday afternoon, we have gathered a panel of inspiring young activists, thinkers, and farmers who will tell us about their work and what drives them to try to reform our food system. One of the questions addressed will be ‘how can we harness the youth’s passion and power in order to advocate for better food and farming policies?’
Guus Thijssen, from the international Slow Food Youth Network, will be joining us from the Netherland to participate in this discussion along with Hassan Waheed, a student at the University of Edinburgh, founding member of FoodSharing Edinburgh, leading member of Net Impact Edinburgh, and director of the SHRUB cooperative (and yes he still finds time to study); Mo Samson, a young farmer in Fife, and Tom Kirby, a member of Granton Community Gardeners, both freshly back from the We Feed The Planet gathering of young food producers and activists in Milan.
Cities, we believe, should become an important link in food and farming policies. They are after all the places where most of the food is eaten. They are also a prime locus for direct democracy, as the distance between urban dwellers and their elected city councilors is smaller than with MPs sitting in Westminster, let alone MEPs in Brussels or Strasbourg. Councilor Lesley Hinds from the Edinburgh City Council and Rosie Boycott, from the London Food Board will be joining us to discuss the potential for cities to become drivers of change in food and agricultural policies.
The last reform of the CAP in 2010-2013 demonstrated how difficult it is to achieve real change with a top down approach, in the form of a revolutionary CAP decided in Brussels and implemented across Europe. If pressure for change is added from the bottom up, if we work for change at the local level, and mobilise to put pressure on our national governments, then we may be more successful.
There are still a few places left for the conference Towards a Citizens’ Agricultural Policy so if you’re interested book yours asap here! If you can’t make it during the day, do join us in the evening on Thursday 22nd for a more informal chat, some delicious food, and two short speeches by experts on local food! Sign up here