The EU's common agricultural policy serves many purposes: it helps farmers not just to produce food, but also to protect the environment, improve animal welfare and sustain viable rural communities.
Authentic Parmesan cheese is stamped with an EU quality label.
EU farm policy has shifted focus over the years as conditions in Europe have changed. Today, the focus is on:
Wide choice at a fair price is a fundamental principle of EU farm policy.
Future challenges include the need to double world food production by 2050 to cater for population growth and wealthier consumers eating more meat, at the same time as dealing with the impact of climate change (loss of biodiversity, deteriorating soil and water quality).
In response to these challenges, and listening to the wishes of European citizens, the focus of EU farm policy from 2013 will shift more towards:
Agricultural policy is managed more centrally, at European level, than other policy areas. This means that the money your national government would be spending on farming is managed by the EU instead.
Nevertheless, the share of farm spending in the EU budget has dropped sharply (from a peak of nearly 70% in the 1970s to around 40% today). This reflects both an expansion of the EU's other responsibilities and cost savings from reforms. Since 2004, the EU has welcome 12 new member countries without any increase in farm spending.
Published in February 2013
This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series