European Citizens support their farmers

European citizens broadly support the new aims of agricultural policy as conducted at European Union level and a majority are in favour of maintaining its budget. This is one of the main findings of a survey of people’s attitudes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Following two similar, recent polls carried out in 2006 and 2007, this latest survey confirms that the guiding principles and aims of the CAP are supported by a majority of people. The survey was carried out between 13 November and 9 December 2009 by TNS Opinion at the behest of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development. Following the traditional Eurobarometer method, a thousand individual interviews were conducted in each of the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union.

An overwhelming majority of European citizens consider that agriculture and the rural environment are vital issues for Europe’s future (average 90% – ranging from 96% in Greece to 80% in the United Kingdom).

European public opinion continues to be broadly in favour of the CAP’s new aims, which are to help farmers to meet the challenges arising from climate change, to become more market-oriented, to allocate support more fairly and to make it conditional on compliance with environmental standards, to maintain the countryside and to develop the rural economy.

According to public opinion, the agricultural policy should focus on ensuring the quality and safety of agricultural products, provide a decent standard of living for farmers and ensure reasonable prices for consumers, protect the environment and rise to the challenges of climate change.

The support for agricultural policy is accompanied by a general preference for the policy to be conducted at European level. Whether it is the protection of the environment, rising to the challenges of climate change, security of supply, ensuring the quality and safety of food or providing a decent standard of living for farmers, citizens believe all these issues should be dealt with at European level.

This year’s survey also included a new series of questions about agriculture and climate change. On this point, almost half the respondents (46%) believe that agriculture has already made a major contribution to combating climate change. A large majority (82%) agree that the EU must help farmers to change the way they work in order to combat climate change. A similar proportion of respondents (77%) believe that agriculture will be greatly affected by climate change over the next few years and two thirds (61%) do not believe that agriculture is one of the principal causes of climate change.

The recognition of the fundamental role of agriculture in Europe explains the high level of support among those polled for maintaining the subsidies paid to farmers (83%). The vast majority of people interviewed (66%) also consider the CAP budget to be either adequate or insufficient, compared with only 17% who believe it is too high. Looking ahead, 70% take the view that financial assistance to farmers in the European Union over the next ten years should increase or remain more or less the same. The percentage of people who think the budget for agricultural policy should increase has been rising for the last 3 years.

These results must be seen alongside those of the standard Eurobarometer study conducted in October/November 209 in which Europeans put agricultural support as the third priority for relaunching sustainable growth.

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