By Feindt, P., H., 2008

Peter Hall's concept of paradigm shift has been used to characterize changes in agricultural policies in OECD countries over the last two decades. Other scholars have explained these changes through the series of food crises, especially BSE and FMD, which are interpreted as instances of meta-change toward reflexive modernity in a risk society, while studies using a political economy approach tend to see not much farm policy change but considerable path dependence. In this paper, I will first clarify the different notions of change and the interdependence between the applied analytical framework and the degree of policy change observed. In the second part, I will discuss the occurrence of a paradigm shift in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), arguing that the CAP has incorporated idea elements from several competing agricultural policy paradigms. Path dependence can account for the obstinacy of the old paradigm. The notion that CAP decision-making has always been marked by crisis that tended to impact on other and broader policy arenas leads to an interpretation of the change as a move toward institutional pluralisation, drawing on Beck's side effect theorem. In the third part, I link the notion of crisis to the concepts of policy windows, shifting institutional frameworks and policy arena overflow. I suggest that the pluralisation of the CAP’s ideational foundations reflect increasing policy interlinkages as well as ideational and institutional tensions of the CAP’s multiple constituency.

By HM Treasury & Defra, 2005

This paper sets out a vision for the future of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. Its aim is to stimulate and help inform debate. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) remains the most visible and expensive common policy of the EU, but is increasingly out of step with the need for Europe to respond to the challenges of globalisation. Internationally, it continues to attract criticism, to create tensions in the EU’s relations with trading partners, and to impose significant costs on developing countries. Domestically, it imposes substantial costs on consumers and taxpayers but is inefficient in delivering support to farmers and promoting an attractive rural environment. Indeed much of the CAP still has a negative impact on the environment. 

Radical change of the sort proposed in this paper has to be seen in the longerterm perspective. The vision in this paper focuses on where we need to be in 10 to 15 years time, and why. It does not set out a route map for getting there. That must be the subject of debate across Europe and achieved through gradual and carefully managed change to give clear signals and time for farmers to adjust their businesses, not an overnight upheaval. Change would take place against the backdrop of multilateral trade negotiations with our major trading partners, both developed and developing. Farmers will want time to plan and the ability to make most effective use of available resources, so that they can best manage the transition. 

The changes set out in this paper are designed to deliver the long-term vision of an industry that is fundamentally sustainable and an integral part of the European economy. They support policies that better protect the environment, more effectively support those most in need, and promote more broad-based sustainable economic development in rural areas. They seek to reduce the costs of protectionism on developing countries and promote the expansion of world trade. And in so doing, they help ensure Europe can meet the challenges of globalisation in the decades ahead.

By Wolf, J., 2002

European farming is at a crossroads. A series of crises – from mad cow disease to foot and mouth – has heightened public unease about food quality and reduced farmers’ incomes. Despite massive changes in farming methods and consumer demand over the last 30 years, agriculture labours under outdated policies designed for a hungry post-war Europe. The European Union (EU) began reform of its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during the 1990s. Nonetheless substantial subsidies remain in place. These encourage farmers to increase their output and partially insulate them from the market-place. This support system is expensive, but it fails to provide sufficient income for all, especially small-scale farmers. Moreover, the average age of farm-workers is rising, as agriculture becomes less and less attractive to the young. As a result, much of Europe can expect a continued exodus from the countryside to urban areas in the coming years. 

At the same time, the EU is seeking a more prominent role on the international stage. But the EU’s aspirations for economic and political leadership are undermined by its tendency to place the interests of a small number of European farmers ahead of the needs of the rest of the world. A dispute over agricultural subsidies could once again pose a major obstacle to the EU’s global trade liberalisation agenda, and undermine its attempts to help developing countries.