Future Policy Prospects in Agriculture for the EU and Australia
Workshop held at the
National Europe Centre, Australian National University
14-15 May 2003
Don Kenyon, Linda Botterill and Elim Papadakis
- One principal aim in organizing this workshop was to bring together a wide range of participants to explore the evolution of agriculture support policy in both Australia and the EU. As we intended, there was a strong emphasis on long term horizons and forward thinking. Furthermore, we have obtained a better understanding of each other’s experiences and future challenges in the formulation of policy options
- The workshop was attended by academics from Europe and several Australian metropolitan and regional universities, current and former European Commission officials (including Dr Rolf Moehler, former Deputy Director-General Agriculture) as well as representatives of the European Union Delegation in Australia, current and former Australian government officials, members of the diplomatic community, current and former members of the Commonwealth Parliament (including the Rt Hon Mr Ian Sinclair, former Leader of the Federal Parliamentary National Party and the Hon John Kerin, former Minister for Primary Industries) as well as representatives of key industry associations. There was also a keynote address by Senator Judith Troeth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Australia).
- Apart from the ongoing support both by the European Commission and the Australian National University for the National Europe Centre, the value of the workshop was considerably enhanced by the support both financially and through active engagement in the entire program by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and by Agriculture, Fisheries and Foresty Australia.
- As we had anticipated, the workshop identified numerous areas of common interest between the European Union and Australia in the area of agricultural policy and included discussion on a wide range of issues covering
-the historic development of agriculture policy
-the current agricultural policy environment
-future policy directions
-rural and regional development issues
-the viability of the family farm in a period of great change and
-the policy implications of achieving sustainable agriculture.
- Despite ongoing differences between Australia and the EU over support and trade policies, the workshop demonstrated we share commonalities in a wide range of issues and problems, including
-the challenges of structural adjustment in agriculture
-the aging of the farm community and the challenges associated with attracting young, educated people into agriculture
-the changing nature of the family farm as off-farm income and pluriactivity become more common
-the need to respond to the requirements of consumers, including concerns about the sustainability of agricultural production, food safety and animal welfare issues.
- The role of ‘new actors’ in agricultural policy, both in Australia and Europe, was a recurring theme. Such actors include both those who focus on consumers’ concerns as outlined above, and a generation of farmers who are learning to adapt to new ways of thinking about agriculture and agricultural products and who are learning about best environmental management practices. There is clearly much to be learnt from each other on these issues.
- In both Australia and Europe there are also concerns about investment in sustaining entire communities, in understanding better the changing nature of agriculture, in the question of what constitutes regional and sustainable development, and in developing improved indicators for measuring biodiversity and human impact on the landscape.
- These issues would benefit from further constructive discussion with a view to building better mutual understanding into the future and progressively learning from each other in developing solutions to challenges and problems we both face.
- The presentations demonstrated the dynamic nature of the policy environment in both Australia and the European Union, highlighting the ongoing changes that have taken place in policy settings and suggesting that the policy environment would continue to evolve.
- Against this background, the workshop identified a number of specific areas where future discussion could be beneficial to both sides. Participants in the workshop suggested that the consideration of these issues should take a multidisciplinary approach encompassing economic, social and environmental concerns in the policy process. The key areas identified for further work were as follows;
-In continuing the shift from a production to a market driven agriculture, referred to many times over the two days, it would be useful to continue to explore options for the de-coupling of support programs from production to ensure that policy objectives can be met in ways that are minimally trade distorting.
-The discussion demonstrated there are many issues in the field of rural and regional development policies that would merit further and more detailed exchanges of views on relative approaches in both Australia and the EU
-The issue of what constitutes “sustainable agriculture” in Australia and the EU was discussed and there is scope for further consideration of the wide range of agri-environmental issues and possible policy responses
-There are common areas of societal concern, such as food safety, animal health and welfare and the future of rural communities and landscapes, which will impact on the policy process and there are opportunities for further consideration of appropriate policy responses to these ‘new’ issues.
-Both Australia and the EU can benefit from sharing experiences in farm adjustment policies, including the importance of training, education and extension services.
-Sharing experiences and analysis of value chain developments is another area of common concern and interest.
-Finally, discussion of how we might expand our cooperation in research and innovation programs in agriculture would seem to constitute a further fruitful area for closer consideration in the future.
- The Conference organisers would like to thank all who participated in the two days of the workshop, particularly our speakers whose presentations stimulated lively debate and discussion. We hope the workshop has opened new avenues for research and policy cooperation between Australia and the European Union in the many common areas of interest.