On Brian Crowley

After chatting with Brian Crowley briefly last week I am still puzzled and perplexed by some of the arguments in favour of the Common Agricultural Policy. This is mainly because he argued about it in a way I had not read or heard before. He mentioned the three current pillars of CAP, and I can only remember two that he mentioned, but he was emphatic about saying that CAP was not about subsidies.

Rather, CAP is about paying farmers to maintain the land as it currently is, and farmers being paid to look after their animals. It was also about food security, food standards and guaranteed supply to markets.

Yea, I was just as puzzled.

Of course I argued that subsidies, sorry payments, distort the market. That if Irish farmers produce say, sugar, and that same product can be produced cheaper by another country and exported to Ireland and sold to consumers at a cheaper price, then so be it. That is the market in action surely. And Irish sugar farmers go out of business, and start growing something else, or farming differently, growing say, rape seed oil. And it is natural that farmers adapt to market demands. And if the land goes into disuse – then let someone else buy it.

But in Crowley’s view, we should pay farmers to keep doing what their doing, regardless of whether it makes economic sense, because afterall, they are keeping the land the way it is, and looking after animals (that are there by virtue of the nature of the industry anyway).

Another example arose surrounding beef. I noted that it could be argued that if beef can be imported cheaply from say Brazil, why should money be given to farmers in the from of payments that resulted in the production of beef? Surely this amounted to distorting – aha argued Crowley, what if Foot and Mouth hit Brazil in this scenario – what then?

Price of beef goes up due to shortage of supply, people stop buying so much beef.

“So the consumer is king?” Remarked Crowley.

“Yes” I replied.

On the subject of the Constitution I thought Crowley was losing the run of himself. He argued that it would be back, probably in its current form, before it dies in late 2007. I just can’t see it, at least not its current form. But I felt a certain amount of smugness from Crowley, who argued too that no Treaty should have to be put before the people of Ireland at all, but should be passed instead by the Dail. He also dismissed any idea that having two Nice Treaty referenda was anything undemocratic, and that the Seville Declaration made the second referendum an entirely different document. (probably referring to Article 29.4.9 of the Constitution, but still allows Irish participation in Common Security and Defence)

So too was a rather strange, and to me outlandish, view that Iceland and Norway would join the European Union. Was all his time spent in Strasbourg really going to his head? Was I living on some different planet – Norway joining the EU? Not in my lifetime, and I would bet, probably never.

And then there was the article Stephen Collins wrote in the Sunday Tribune on the 30th of October, something Crowley appeared to take great exception to. It all relates, I believe, to the passage into law of the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005. It has been causing some consternation among Deputies, and long story short – the Department of the Marine screwed up in drafting the legislation. Just don’t tell Brian Crowley I told you that.

4 thoughts on “On Brian Crowley”

  1. The three pillars are pretty new, I think, and I’m fairly sure they came in to replace the initial five objectives of the CAP, although it’s really pretty similar these days.

    I can only find information on two pillars, but based on what you’re saying, I imagine the “Keeping the land in use” thing is a combination of rural development programmes and the long-standing idea that agriculture isn’t just another sector and merits special treatment. That, along with European self-sufficiency, seem to be continuing influences on CAP development.

    And, of course, the consumer suffers while a tiny minority of farmers get huge resource bonuses.

  2. The basic idea behind it is nice, in a post-war, cold-war, let’s-all-leave-fighting-in-the-past-in-this-our-United-States-Of-Europe way.

    In terms of implementation, it contributes to the lack of competitiveness of Third World farmers, keeps the powerful (but admittedly declining) farmers’ lobby in brandy and cigars, and makes our produce prices unnaturally high. So, no, you’re not the only one.

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