Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

CAP was introduced because of lack of food production in Europe after WWII. This was due to:

  • Unreliable prices – Undercut from abroad if there were low yields.
  • Low investment – Not worth modernising farms, as they couldn’t be sure of a good price.
  • Wasted land – Poor quality land with lots of small fields.


The aims of CAP were:

  • Increase productivity & attain self-sufficiency
  • Assure price stability & regular food supply
  • Ensure economic viability for farmers.
  • Sustain rural communities.
  • Protect the EU from cheap imports.
  • Create a single market for products to move freely


Original solutions

  • Tariffs – import taxes on foreign food so that home products are cheaper.
  • Guaranteed prices – If farmers couldn’t get a good price then CAP bought off them to store food for poor years.
  • Subsidies – encourage people to improve the quality of their land e.g. removal of hedges, drain marshes etc.


However, the policy was too successful by the 1970s and should have been changed.


Europe was now self-sufficient but was overproducing. This caused huge surpluses – wine lakes & Butter Mountains. By the 1990s CAP was taking 60% of the total EU budget. The USA complained that the EU was unfair and protectionist which could have led to a trade war. There was also a change in public opinion away from mass production due to food scares such as salmonella & BSE. There was also evidence that farmers would claim subsidies fraudulently e.g. Corsica where exaggerated the number of pigs. CAP also displaces instability from the EU into the wider market & so causes global problems.


Changes in the 1990s

Changes were made to control spending and stop overproduction.

There were a number of new aims after changes were made in 1992:

  1. Increase EU agricultural competitiveness – Quality not quantity.
  2. Stabilise markets & reduce surpluses.
  3. Ensure a fair standard of living for farmers – income support
  4. Maintain rural jobs & reduce migration to towns
  5. Protect the environment with set-aside.


The changes made include: –

  • Milk Quotas

Only allowed to produce so much food otherwise they are fined.

Milk quotas mean that many farmers have to halve herd so halve income. Therefore many go out of business, causing resentment towards CAP. Many have to sell up to large farms – mechanisation and large farms impact on the environment. People feel farming controlled by Europe not UK – Beaurocracy

Also, have to stop growing certain types of crops. They are given grants for what they can grow. They may have to change the type of farm they run but grants are given for new machinery. May grow for example:

  1. Oilseed rape – yellow flower for animal fodder Causes hay fever
  2. Linseed oil – Blue flower which changes the look of the environment.

However, the grants only last a certain period of time so have to change the crop. This means the farmer has wasted money on improving the land leading to discontent and anger towards CAP.


  • Set-aside

Subsidies paid so that farmers leave the land fallow.

Money for putting feet up leads to diversification – grants for everything!


  • Diversification grants

Money paid to use the land for other things:

  1. Trees – Christmas trees grow quickly


  1. Caravan park for the winter.
  2. Pick your own Fruit
  3. Garden centres – contracted to grow plants
  4. Motorbike scrambling


  1. Fishing.
  2. Bed & Breakfast


This is changing the shape of the landscape, particularly on the rural-urban fringe.

A good example of diversification is Bramcote Mains farm near Coventry. Diversification & set-aside with christmas trees, caravan parking, fishing ponds, landfill, camping, quad biking, pony trekking, sheep farming & potatoes.

Dairy farmers in the Vale of Evesham have decided to specialise in Pick Your Own and market gardens as it is traditional for the area.


  • Conservation schemes

Farmers paid to maintain the land in Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) e.g. limestone downs, marshes. The country Stewardship Scheme set-up to maintain the attractive countryside. Farmers also paid to maintain traditions e.g. dry stone walls & sheepdogs in the Lake District.

May also set-aside land for conservation – ponds for wildlife/ fishing. East Anglia has become more organic as they can receive government grants for traditional styles of farming.



As well as the problems above there are some other major problems:

  • Excess food is put into storage – most go to waste. This is pointless, as they can’t sell it to other countries, as most countries can’t afford to buy it.
  • Economically unviable farms in rural communities supported to maintain the landscape – waste of money.
  • Large wealthy farms benefit – Can have full yields & set-aside money due to large land & fertilisers. This leads to a larger gap between core & periphery.
  • Causes damage to the environment e.g. loss of hedgerows
  • Threat to human health – GM CropsImport taxes handicap LEDCs by putting them at an unfair disadvantage.

CAP is now more focused on sustainability want to conserve ESAs and provide support for organic farming.

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