Report Synopsis

Insights from agricultural policies of selected non-EU developed countrie

The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has shaped the UK’s agricultural policy and landscape for forty years. As the UK leaves the EU there is an opportunity to look beyond the borders of the EU and seek inspiration from the policies of other developed countries.

This report presents insights from the agricultural policies of Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland. The agricultural policies of these countries represent a broad interpretation of agriculture. Each nation recognises that agriculture is multifunctional and their policies seek to optimise these functions according to their own priorities and context.

The four common functions of agriculture were sustaining rural communities, environmental sustainability, economic development and food production. With the exception of New Zealand, the visited countries provided their farmers with a high degree of support through tariffs, subsidy, favourable tax arrangements and market control. In these countries there was limited desire for significant change in the total level of support. Policy makers, politicians and farmers felt that the existing arrangements were necessary to ensure agriculture continued to provide the required multiple functions. There were ongoing debates about how support was provided, with reforming voices tending to want a shift away from market protection or subsidy linked to production to direct support potentially with environmental conditions. With the partial exception of Switzerland and some yet to be implemented changes in South Korea, there was little sign that such reforms would succeed. In Japan and Norway in particular, few were calling for reforms due to the political influence of farmer representatives and public acceptance of existing policies and their impacts.

New Zealand provides little if any support to farmers and its farming industry is a global success story. There was however growing public pressure for the Government to intervene more in the sector. Water quality has been impacted by an increase in intensive dairy production and overseas investors have driven up the price of land, making succession for New Zealand farmers more difficult.

Seen from an international perspective, the proposed reforms in the UK are exceptional. The likelihood of the UK having four distinct agricultural policies and the move in England and Wales away from direct support to a policy of ‘public money for public goods’ are unprecedented. The UK can still learn from the countries visited. The report makes the following recommendations:

  • UK and devolved Governments should consider a broader range of policy measures than direct support when crafting their agricultural and rural policies.
  • Government, the public and farmers should determine which functions of agriculture they want to see emphasised.
  • The UK and devolved Governments should recognise that the vitality of rural areas cannot be taken for granted.
  • Farmers and their representatives must determine the relationship they want to have with Government(s).
  • UK and devolved Government should reform reflectively. Future UK agricultural policies will be unprecedented. Policy makers should be humble and prepared to modify their reforms in light of negative impacts.

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