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EU Proposal: Shift Farming Subsidies To Science 154

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the agribusiness-displeased dept.
smitty777 writes "There is a proposal in the EU budget which would provide a 45% increase in technology and innovation spending for the 2014-2020 time period. Interestingly, some of the increase from $79B to $114B would come from the controversial farm subsidies program, the Common Agricultural Policy. The article states ... 'While some scientists and observers feel optimistic that the proposal will pass, one stated that "it is extremely unlikely that the member states will agree to anything exceeding this, so we should regard it as a ceiling" on the eventual research budget.'"
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EU Proposal: Shift Farming Subsidies To Science

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  • No really.

    The common agricultural policy should simply be stopped. Taxes refunded and reduced.

    • What ever happened to the concept of just ending a subsidy? Period. There will always be hands out for free money. Science, space, the arts, whatever. Why don't we just say, "We're ending the farming subsidy and we're aren't going to give anybody else this money. We're just going to pay down some national debt with it. Or maybe just give the money back to the taxpayers in the form of a tax reduction for the lower classes."
      • by yarnosh (2055818)
        I was under the impression that farm subsidies allow us to export crops. Without them we wouldn't be able to compete. Basically it comes down to "all the other guys subsidize, so we do too." Is this not the case?
        • by Nursie (632944)

          it comes down to "all the other guys subsidize, so we do too." Is this not the case?

          Not so much, I was under the impression that all the other guys (where other guys are third world) can't get a market started in some places because euro and american farmers are subsidised out the wazoo.

          Oh sure, both of these huge economic blocks love to talk about free markets, but when it comes to farming, we're just not willing to compete fairly in our internal or external markets.

          Part of this is because France would jus

          • by yarnosh (2055818)
            The "other guys" i was referring to were the Europeans and other first world countries. Third world countries don't need to subsidize. They already work for peanuts.
          • France will be an interesting one to watch as time goes on: On the one hand, they adore the CAP money-trough that allows their oh-so-picturesque agricultural to do assorted economically absurd but picturesque 'cultural' things. On the other hand, with EU membership showing signs of expanding eastward into some of the former Warsaw Pact nations, which are substantially poorer than France; but also have lots of picturesque and inefficient farmers who would be happy to claim to be culturally valuable in exchan
      • Ending these subsidies won't put a penny back in the hands of taxpayers, it'll just go back to the treasuries of the member states.

        The EU has the same problem as any level of government that doesn't raise its own taxes, in that if they lower their budget one year when the money isn't needed, it'll be nigh on impossible for the to raise it again later when it is needed. So while I don't necessarily like the situation, I understand why the EU wouldn't want to just hand the money back.

        Local councils in the UK

      • by IrquiM (471313)

        In US, that's how it should work...

        For us that haven't got any national debt.... ? No, this is a good suggestion!

    • But governments like to hold onto power. Remember, you're always about 9 meals away from a revolution. As Juvenal noted, it's all about bread and circuses. Agricultural subsidies can help insure food supply and stabilize prices. As with all government subsidies (housing, education), the rich game the system, but without them you would see a lot more instability in food prices.

      • You say that as though a desire to avoid mass hunger was some kind of evil conspiracy.

        Making sure that the people who elected you don't risk starvation is pretty high up the list of priorities for a decent and competent politician.
    • by glassware (195317) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:54PM (#36685356) Homepage Journal

      Governments can do good things. Just because you grew up in a time after government solved most of peoples' major problems doesn't mean you should now turn against government.

      A hundred years ago, people were suffering under the lack of a social safety net, unregulated robber barons, unfair working conditions, and virtually no government investment in infrastructure and science. During the 1900s, we accomplished many things by careful, measured application of taxes, investment, and regulation. Many of these things are good; some of them are poorly designed and should be revised. If you and your kind succeed in repealing every regulation, tax, and investment, our society will collapse.

      Sensible government investment and regulation should be supported, not railed against.

    • The real purpose for farm subsidies is that city folk don't like to starve! Only 5% of the US population is actually engaged in GROWING food for the other 95%. And with current food prices, that number is actually in danger of going down. One of the big lessons of the Great Depression era was the "dust bowl" problem. Poor farming techniques caused farmers to plant and grow only for what they could get to market... Which was fine until a mass drought hit, and then ruined places where food was still able to b

  • The farming lobby is one of the strongest in Congress. You'll have every midwestern senator and his brother screaming holy bloody murder before debate even begins. And that's not to mentioned that Archer Daniels Midland [wikipedia.org] (ADM) basically owns half of them (you think they're just going to roll over and give up billion of $ in subsidies to a bunch of eggheads without a nasty fight?).

    You'd have better luck getting cuts to oil subsidies through Texas's and Alaska's objections. And even that is nigh impossible.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:36AM (#36682130) Homepage

      The "farming lobby" is more about large megacorps than it is about real farmers. That's the real problem here. If you cut out the farm subsidies then some very large corporations will be hammered right in the pocketbook. They aren't going to take that lying down. Neither will Republicans.

      This is all about "big business". Using the word "farm" to refer to any of this is a huge and misleading misnomer.

      • Farm subsidies in the US aren't a Republican or Democrat thing. The recent vote in the US senate to end ethanol subsidies [usatoday.com] shows it is more rural farm region versus coastal urban region thing. I blame Iowa for this since they have the first primary and all presidential candidates fall all over themselves to promise more corn, ethanol, and farm subsidies.
      • by Hartree (191324) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @10:06AM (#36682460)

        Really? You live in the city, right?

        I sure know a lot of family owned farms here in east central Illinois that take the subsidy programs.

        But, what do I know. I just hang out with farmers and own farmland of my own. I assure you I'm hardly a megacorp.

        Yes, the large corporations like ADM and many others do large lobbying pushes, but they don't directly vote. In farm states (you probably call them fly-over states), the congress-critters often rely on the farm vote to keep their jobs.

        Whether it should be that way is a different discussion, but the simple picture you paint is misleading at best.

        • I sure know a lot of family owned farms here in east central Illinois that take the subsidy programs.

          And how many of them merely rent the land they till? One of the largest farmland owners in the US has an adress on Park Place, IIRC. Yes preservation of farm families is a good thing, but less so if they are not much more than serfs.

          • by Hartree (191324)

            There's a lot of cash rent and crop share, but most of the farmers where I'm at own a lot of their own ground. It's usually been in families for generations.

            You get people buying up land for investment, but surprisingly often their at least local. We've got a local cardiac surgeon who owns large amounts in this county. He's not a megacorp either. (Disclaimer: he operated on my dad for an aortic aneurysm. Several farmers I know farm land he owns, but they also have their own land too.)

        • WTF? 4, insightful? Anecdote trumps aggregate numbers? And so what if you've got some great buds receiving being funneled cash from Uncle Sugar-Daddy Sam? I supposed to ignore the 90+% of ag subsidies not even going to family farmers, just to avoid hurting your friends' feelings?

          They can go fuck themselves. They can get go get a job doing something that doesn't require naked extortion from taxpayers. You know, like non-sociopaths.

          • Since you seem to know what my (and their) opinions on subsidies are better than I do, I'll just let you tell me.

            Makes the argument a lot easier for you, no? I'll just listen to you rant. Pass the popcorn.

            • Um, you just defended the subsidies on that grounds that people you like get them. Even if there's more to it than that, you're still ultimately advocating socially-unproductive welfare payments to farmers who can do fine on their own -- and would do something *useful* if they weren't hooking up with Uncle Sugar Daddy.

              The subsidies need to end. Completely. As long as you disagree, my arguments were quite responsive to your position. (I use the term "position" here loosely of course. It's actually giving

              • by Hartree (191324)

                "Um, you just defended the subsidies on that grounds that people you like get them."

                You really need to take a critical reading course. Or do you just re-interpret things to suit what your mental model of the world is?

                I wrote that what Jedidiah said didn't square with my own experience and I thought it was a simplistic view of a more complex reality.

                What part of

                "Whether it should be that way is a different discussion, but the simple picture you paint is misleading at best."

                didn't you understand?

                Or did you do

                • I didn't say that anyone should give up subsidies while having to compete with those who are subsidized. I said the subsidies should end so that all of the welfare babies can go do something worthwhile for once in their lives. (Or better, *don't* compete, since there's overproduction in that area already, get a real job, and join the cause of ending favoritism in government, like an honorable human being.)

                  I wrote that what Jedidiah said didn't square with my own experience and I thought it was a simplistic view of a more complex reality.

                  Right, you said that because you have some buds (i.e., anecdotal evidence), that somehow refutes the

        • by rgviza (1303161)
          I kind of have to side with farmers on this one. You cut subsidies, put a lot of farmers out of business, land goes back to native etc. This is all well and good until a blight or something wipes out half the crop one year.

          Then you have food shortages and mayhem. Food is one of those things you just don't want to fuck around with. I have no issues paying taxes for farm subsidies.

          Remember the Irish potato famine? Reduce farming to need based only and that's what you set yourself up for. As it is we have a hu
          • by Hartree (191324)

            I'm not a big fan of subsidies. A lot of farmers I know aren't either. But, if your in farming, it's a business. If the subsidies are available, you nearly have to take them to stay competitive with those who do.

            There are some situations when countries have to use them, but in most cases they're a poor sort of crutch and last far longer than they are really needed.

            They're addictive. When you have subsidies people/businesses get used to them and when you cut them it can hurt.

      • Damn those US farmers, coming over here and stealing our EU farming subsidies.
        • by MrL0G1C (867445)
          Yeah, some serious reading fail going on here today, you'd think 'EU proposal' in the title or 'EU budget' in the first line of the summary would be a hint as to where this story is about.
        • by DaveGod (703167)

          To be fair it's all the same thing, just change a few words to "France".

      • by MrL0G1C (867445)
        The EU has a republican party?!?! I must of missed that. Stupid mods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The farming lobby is one of the strongest in Congress. You'll have every midwestern senator and his brother screaming holy bloody murder before debate even begins. And that's not to mentioned that Archer Daniels Midland [wikipedia.org] (ADM) basically owns half of them (you think they're just going to roll over and give up billion of $ in subsidies to a bunch of eggheads without a nasty fight?).

      You'd have better luck getting cuts to oil subsidies through Texas's and Alaska's objections. And even that is nigh impossible.

      Suprisingly the US Congress and midwestern senators and the like have very little say in the EU.

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      And this has to do with the EU how?

    • by jaymz2k4 (790806)
      This is to do with Europe, not the United States.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        They probably have their own versions of ADM and Con Agra.

        • It doesn't have to be their own version of those companies. It is probably the same companies (or their EU subsidiaries). Also you missed one of the other big ones Monsanto who is now big into the GM crops.
    • I think the EU would have a hard time cutting any US subsidies. WTF? You can't even get past the first word of the subject line of the article?

    • And don't forget that agricultural research in Europe has a tendency to find itself on the wrong side of an angry [expatica.com] desrtuctive [google.com] mob. [redgreenandblue.org] Food producers won't like the lost subsidies, and lot of people in Europe just don't want science in their food so I can't imagine they'll support more research either.

    • The farming lobby is one of the strongest in Congress. You'll have every midwestern senator and his brother screaming holy bloody murder before debate even begins.

      I'm actually pretty sure that most of Congress, and particularly midwestern Senators that are plugged in to US agricultural interests, would be quite happy with the European Union ending farm subsidies; the E.U. (unlike the EE.UU.) isn't the U.S.

    • by IrquiM (471313)

      Thank you!

      Good thing that the Farming lobby and the congress has nothing to do with EU!

  • ... as soon as scientists spend as much on think tanks, lobbying, and campaign subsidies as agribusiness does.
  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:36AM (#36682124)

    Imagine what we could get done if we weren't spending billions per month on war.

    Our problems with the budget have nothing to do with unemployment, welfare, SSI, or unions, or whatever monster that the Republicans say is hiding under the bed. It has everything to do with the fact that we're pissing money away on wars that we /did not and are not paying for/. (Cut taxes while fighting a war? Just who the fuck is claiming fiscal responsibility here?)

    We give science short shrift here when it is /undisputed/ by people on both sides of the aisle (except for nutcases like Palin) that basic and applied science give valuable dividends to society as a whole.

    And don't tell me that the "free market" and companies will take up the slack. PARC no longer exists and neither does Bell Labs. R&D has been the first thing to be cut by bean counters in the last 30 years.

    --
    BMO

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      Don't let your mindless Republican bashing get in the way of this being a story about the EU.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bmo (77928)

        Republicanism is morally and fiscally bankrupt.

        Deal with it.

        --
        BMO

        • by rgviza (1303161)
          And anyone that thinks Republicans and Democrats aren't the same exact party (with a different name) that do the same stupid shit is a moron.

          People need to put down the koolaid, seriously.
          • by bmo (77928)

            False equivalency fallacy.

            You just did it.

            The Republicanists and their propaganda wing, Fox News, want you to believe that "the Democrats are just as bad as we are" to make it look like they're not as bad as they really are.

            --
            BMO

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Yup.

      Got multiple wars going on... can't balance the budget... I know lets cut the space program. [rolls eyes]

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      To illustrate directly: each JDAM costs $35,000 - $70,000 [wikipedia.org]. We might as well ship out crates of luxury automobiles and push them out the back of transport planes.

    • The US dollar funnels the world's wealth to the USA and allows the US to effectively tax the rest of the world through inflation.

      The 40% of government spending which goes on the military is to keep americans fat and happy. Without the dollar siphoning off the wealth from the rest of the world, American lifestyles would be far more difficult to maintain.

      • I'm not sure how a powerful military enforces that though, the situation mostly exists through the US being the largest single and single language market. The dollar isn't backed by bullets, it's backed by taxes.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:39AM (#36682160) Journal
    Seriously, far far better to spend money on R&D rather than providing subsidies that push planting corn, while having other subsidies that says to take fields out of production. Makes zero sense. We would be better doing the R&D and then keeping the companies local rather than selling them to Chinese companies (that makes ZERO sense).
  • by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:40AM (#36682182) Homepage
    We should do the same here. Off the top of my head my quick list of subsidies that should be cut:
    • 1. Corn
    • 2. Ethanol
    • 3. Cotton
    • 4. Oil

    Even with my strong libertarian leaning I realize there is a social benefit to perusing real science and innovation.

    • by jopsen (885607)

      We should do the same here. Off the top of my head my quick list of subsidies that should be cut:

      • 1. Corn
      • 2. Ethanol
      • 3. Cotton
      • 4. Oil

      Even with my strong libertarian leaning I realize there is a social benefit to perusing real science and innovation.

      You guys subsidies oil?
      In most European countries there's high energy taxes on oil... In Denmark 8 USD/gallon is quite normal...

      • These subsidies are in the form of tax breaks specifically for the oil companies. There are probably some here on /. that would claim that that isn't a subsidy, but functionally it is the same. I lump tariffs, subsidies, and tax breaks for specific industries in the same category as they are all designed to do the same thing.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:42AM (#36682196)
    The CAP is badly run, inefficient, but a good idea. The EU are very bad at publicising the true aim of the CAP, which is food security. Most people seem to think it is just some sort of political back-hander to farmers, but the truth is that without it European farmers could not compete on an open market. This would result on reliance on countries in Africa, Asia, etc. for most of our food. When scarcities occur these countries may well impose a cap on exports. China and India have both limited rice exports in the past. Also if countries know that we are dependent on them it becomes a political weapon. It is worth spending some money to ensure that we are not totally reliant on outside sources for food.

    Now if they want to save money on inefficiencies in the implementation of the CAP and spend it on science I am 100% behind that, but if they want to rely on the world market for our food supply I think that is a dangerous idea.
    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      but the truth is that without it European farmers could not compete on an open market

      So why does Britain still have agriculture - we don't get much in subsidies, It's mainly the French who get the lions share of the subsidies - that's the whole reason why Britain gets the big rebate and we all argue about all of this every budget.

      I don't support a penny more to the EU - they tried to take over the military and have and extreme military expansionist policy last time they (and who is they?) wrote the so called 'constitution' - constitution my arse, corporate wet dream more like.

      EU is a bad id

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        but the truth is that without it European farmers could not compete on an open market

        So why does Britain still have agriculture - we don't get much in subsidies, It's mainly the French who get the lions share of the subsidies.

        France gets almost 2.5 times the subsidies of the UK. They have slightly less than twice [wikipedia.org] the area of agricultural land that the UK has. It obviously is unfair, but not to the gross level that some people seem to think. After the rebate it is about even.

        that's the whole reason why Britain gets the big rebate and we all argue about all of this every budget.

        I don't support a penny more to the EU - they tried to take over the military and have and extreme military expansionist policy last time they (and who is they?) wrote the so called 'constitution' - constitution my arse, corporate wet dream more like.

        EU is a bad idea, it's not democratic, no-one has any idea who chooses and writes the laws, one MEP to millions of people is extremely undemocratic and unrepresentative and allows for corporate lobbyists to have more clout than ordinary citezens. Some laws have even been written in part by corporations on behalf of the unelected Commission who chose the laws. MEPs only get to vote on them and they are snowed under by a Commission with a law writing addiction out of control.

        Citizens of Europe don't understand that their local gov'ts only decide on prison sentances and local taxation, everything else is decided by faceless unelected bureaucrats.

        OK so you are against the EU in general. This probably means that you are happy with the UK relying on the open market for 40% of its food needs. I think that in future as populations increase world wide this will be a disastrous move.

      • Right. The EP is undemocratic. Says a Brit whose system of vote is first-past-the post (you vote is not diluted, it just doesn't count) and a house of lords. There are 500 000 000 citizens of the EU. They all count.

        Also "no-one has any idea who chooses and writes the laws" is not just a stupid argument. It is the ultimate "I am entitled to my ignorance and my point of view" point which completely invalidates anything you might say. Go read WP or something. It is just not that complicated.

        Finally, please, do

        • by MrL0G1C (867445)

          I don't like first past the post either, but at least in Britain you can talk to your MP and make a difference.

          "no-one has any idea who chooses and writes the laws" is not an argument at all, it is an observation of fact - the fact that Europeans are clueless about how European government works and that can't be good for democracy.

          WP?

          The European Commission is as democratic as the house of lords. The difference is the house of lords strikes down bad laws whilst the Commission creates them.

          • The European Commission is as democratic as the house of lords. The difference is the house of lords strikes down bad laws whilst the Commission creates them.

            How would you know? The media in the UK ignores the EU completely unless they're bashing them. The BBC has good coverage of European politics on specialist programmes on the news channel at odd times of the day, but you will never see mature coverage of EU policy on any mainstream news programme or in any mainstream newspaper in the UK, even the sca

            • by MrL0G1C (867445)

              How would you know?

              I agree, UK media sucks bad, I know how the EU works because I went out of my way to find out, Wikipedia was useless - it does not document the workings of EU governance well.

              Media doesn't cover the EU because British people are apathetic about real politics much like Americans - they'd rather be talking about football or 'stars in their eyes'. Hundreds of years of political struggle seem to be going down the drain because people are too lazy to think for themselves and have succumbed to the corporate messa

      • by obi (118631)
        > faceless unelected bureaucrats

        Right. Sure.
        - the European Parliament's MEPs are directly elected by the citizens
        - the European Council is made up of heads of state, like, say David Cameron, who (I hope) is elected by the citizens.
        - the European Commision is indeed not directly elected, but has to be approved by the Parliament, and put in office by the Council - seems like there's still some democratic checks there.

        Just because you don't know these "foreign" people, doesn't mean they haven't been electe
        • by MrL0G1C (867445)

          Britain doesn't elect it's head of state - the Queen, it also doesn't elect it's Prime Minister - the main party in parliament's leader becomes Prime Minister.

          MEPs don't make most of the decisions, the decisions that count are made by the Commission and their and others bureaucrats.

          Just because you don't know these "foreign" people, doesn't mean they haven't been elected.

          Why are you trying to put racists words in to my mouth, they certainly don't belong there. And what makes you think I'm not one of 'these "foreign" people' as *you* put it.

          You can right to your MEP all you like - they don't make

          • by MrL0G1C (867445)
            write not right, oops
          • by obi (118631)
            Well, the "foreign" bit didn't come out right - I didn't mean to imply you're racist. What I meant to say is that most people, particularly those from the bigger countries, have no clue about the politicians and politics from the other member states (this is an observation, not a complaint). And it's easy to mistake all those politicians for "faceless" bureaucrats when you only know a few of the more than 700 MEPs. After all, you sure haven't voted for all these other guys. But some of the 500 million citiz
    • by jopsen (885607)
      I've heard that the EU has a huge stock pile of food rotting away... So a small reduction is the production is probably not a bad idea...
      • That used to be the case (for milk and butter, to be precise) since the 1970ies up until 2007. The matter has been taken care of.

  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:43AM (#36682214)

    The Common Agriculture Policy [wikipedia.org] (CAP) was devised as a way to keep a strategic asset, the ability to produce food without depending on foreign powers, in spite of any economic pressure that could force farmers to abandon farming altogether and therefore squander the food production potential of the EU members. This is mainly achieved by a series of agricultural subsidies devised to keep farms afloat even when their production, in today's market, is far more expensive than any import food, particularly in the third world.

    Knowing this, reducing CAP subsidies so that the money is directed elsewhere represents the destruction of europe's agricultural potential and the abandon of europe's objective of being self-dependent in terms of food production. Although investing in science and technology is always a good thing, doing it at the expense of being able to guarantee europe's basic needs isn't a smart move. It's literally betting the farm on the expectation that a boom in tertiary and quaternary industries will be enough to compensate the dependence on third-world countries, some of whom are run by despots, for the ability to get a meal. Just to put it in perspective, just think of a OPEC [wikipedia.org] formed to control europe's food imports, and imagine the effect of a speculation attack on the price of food. It would be suicide.

    And I don't even mention the lobbying for the agroindustry.

    So no, don't expect this shift to occur. The CAP subsidies will keep on being directed to the farmers and science will be forced to get it's funding from somewhere else.

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      ust think of a OPEC formed to control europe's food imports, and imagine the effect of a speculation attack on the price of food. It would be suicide.

      - cartels don't work.

      Cartels don't work, because it you are part of the cartel and you agree to quotas, then if you believe that everybody else will only fulfill their quota, then you may as well go above it, because it's not a big deal in terms of total output.

      However if you believe that everybody else is going above their quota, then for you not to go above it is really stupid.

      This means that regardless of what is agreed upon by the cartel, everybody is cheating and trying to sell more than they agreed t

  • I want to see them suffer while the rest of us dine on Replicator synthesized gourmet cooking.

    • I realize that this is possibly sarcasm, but still the appearance of "synthesized" and "gourmet" in one sentence makes me shiver. In the end, the main problem why people are eating unhealthy, bad shit is the disconnect between them and the actual sources of their food. I'll stick with my friendly neighborhood hick farmer for my gourmet needs.... ;)
  • If they're going to finally make cuts to the farm budget, why not cut the overall EU budget? Those f*****rs are increasing the size of their budget when most of the member states are slashing spending and imposing painful austerity measures. They're so out of touch; it's so offensive. What value are they bringing? That's right: none, other than some more expensive unnecessary buildings [guardian.co.uk]

  • Scientists generally don't stage mass protests, obstruct traffic, riot etc.

    All of which commonly occurs in Europe whenever the agricultural sector there feels threatened.

    • by andersh (229403)

      Not really. That's more or less France in a nutshell. It's not Europe as a whole. A little in Belgium I suppose(?). I've never seen it happen in the 48 other European countries.

      Oh, and they might obstruct traffic, but they're hardly "rioting" à la Greece.

      You're not European, are you?

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