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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.

Focus on quality not quantity...

EU farm policy has shifted focus over the years as conditions in Europe have changed. Today, the focus is on:

  • enabling farmers to produce enough safe, high-quality food (cereals, meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, wine…) for European consumers, contribute to a diversified rural economy and care for the environment and their animals to the highest standards
  • supporting consumers to make informed choices about their food, through voluntary EU quality-labelling schemes. These labels – indicating geographic origin, use of traditional ingredients or methods (including organic) – also help make EU farm products competitive on world markets
  • promoting innovation in farming and food processing (aided by EU research projects) to increase productivity and reduce environmental impacts, e.g. by using crop by-products and waste products to produce energy
  • encouraging fair trade relations with developing countries – by reducing EU farm export subsidies, which makes it easier for developing countries to sell what they produce.

Facing the future

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:

  • sustainable farming practices
  • innovation, research and the spread of knowledge
  • a fairer support system for European farmers.

Why so much of the EU budget goes to farm support

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 welcomed 12 new member countries without any increase in farm spending.

Find out more.


*This text originates from the EU's official website:

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