Mean-spiritedness and EU farming subsidies

As is widely known, all farming in Europe is based on a massive system of subsidies. For some reason it seems farming is such unprofitable work that farmers need to be subsidized if we are to have anything to eat.

I wonder if anybody knows all the political reasons behind the farming subsidies? The least likely of them might not seem to be national security. But because we up here in the north have considerably less favourable weather for farming than our southern European friends, it really is a question of national security that our farmers get their subsidies. When it comes to the production of food, most people would consider it vitally important for each country to maintain a certain level of self-sufficiency. And because those of us living at Arctic latitudes can't possibly compete with the farmers in southern Europe, we must pay our farmers subsidies. Even I can see the point of that. What I don't understand is why French farmers also get subsidies, and in particular I don't understand why they get paid more than their colleagues in the north!

OK, so I don't understand the EU farming policy, that's OK. But I do know there's a lot of talk in the EU about quotas. There are quotas for milk, quotas for eggs, and quotas for grains. When a farmer gets a certain subsidy for his work, he also commits to not exceed his quota. Because, if farmers did exceed their quotas we'd have more food than the citizens of the EU could eat, and in no time we'd have the same crisis on our hands as the Beaujolais winegrowers.

In a word, Europe's farming policy is based on mean-spiritedness. The subsidies policy is based on farmers agreeing not to produce more food than their agreed quota. When one considers that a great number of people on Earth are starving and many of them actually die of hunger, this policy seems extremely questionable.1 Yet this gets very little coverage in the media, perhaps because we've come to accept that being mean-spirited is normal and sensible. Ironically, both farming and commerce are often spoken of as being productive when actually it is being mean-spirited.

  • 1This does not deal with the fact that dumping European over-production in developing countries would also cause problems, as it would make their domestic farming unprofitable. However, this question also relates to the law of supply and demand.
    In the World Trade Organization negotiations on free trade held between the US, Europe, and several developing countries in 2003, a miracle occurred: pharmaceutical companies were willing to make concessions to their patents because the developing countries demanded it. In the end no deal was done because the countries in the EU, in particular, were not willing to give up their farming subsidies. For some reason that is just too hard for them.
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