Bureaucratic language and European Union legalese have contrived to render the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) so hard to swallow that it has led to general disinterest about something vitally important: food and who produces it. This issue was discussed on Sunday October 4 as part of the Terra Madre Giovani – We Feed the Planet program, thanks to the launch of “CAP, What’s Cooking,” a European project from the Groupe de Bruges. The project will involve a series of gastronomic events on farms across Europe, in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria and France, among others. The aim is to make the Common Agricultural Policy more “digestible” to the wider public and to attract the interest of young people living in the larger urban areas.
Over the past 50 years, the CAP has played a crucial role in the work of European farmers and food producers, while also ensuring the availability of sufficient, reasonably priced food for consumers. But in practice, European citizens know practically nothing about the policy. The main reason is the CAP’s complexity. Anyone looking to learn more about its content must either be prepared to tackle hundreds of pages or be skilled at navigating the European Commission’s websites.
Despite these challenges, there are a whole host of reasons for being interested in the subject. “Every year the European Union invests €53 billion into the Common Agricultural Policy, 0.4% of the total budget, around €100 per citizen,” explained Bart Soldaat, the secretary of the Groupe de Bruges. “We decided to create this project with the aim of involving as many people as possible, with a particular focus on the new measures that will be introduced between 2014 and 2020.”
Soldaat expressed a positive opinion about some of these innovations (even if in general the text seems more complicated). According to new “greening” rules, producers must have at least two different crops on their land, 5% of which must be dedicated to ecological activities. Cooperation is encouraged between producers, united in cooperatives and associations in order to facilitate mutual support and dialog with the political powers. A fairer distribution of resources in the EU’s different countries is hoped for, and a closer relationship between scientific research and agricultural practice is also promoted, with the awareness that farmers are the best source of information about local biodiversity. Finally, greater integration with other European policy areas, such as health, has been developed.
Following its October launch, in March 2016 the project will be organizing a number of events on farms around Europe. These farms will open their doors to visitors, with workshops and educational events on the CAP. The tools that will be used to promote the project include an e-learning platform and the CAP Cook Book, which collects recipes, the stories of young European farmers and useful information for better understanding the Common Agricultural Policy.
Among the project’s partners are CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers) and the Slow Food Youth Network. Joris Lohman, chair of the SFYN, said that he was happy to be able to bring the project to an international level, allowing a larger number of people to get to grips with this “boring” theme. “We want to work together to make it sexier!” he said.
The project’s launch was celebrated with a tasting: Dutch chef Naresh Ramdjas had prepared a selection of products from European farms, to the audience’s delight.
“We have to bring European citizens closer to the Common Agricultural Policy,” concluded Alice Cerruti, the vice-president of CEJA. “What better way than by focusing on food, giving people the chance to see with their own eyes how it is produced by our farmers, who are opening their farms to everyone?”
Translation: Carla Ranicki