La difficile question des biens publics en agriculture : réflexions autour des outils économiques
[Paper in French] The European Union (EU) has gradually increased the importance of environmental issues in the objectives and instruments of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Agro-environmental schemes, enforced within all of the Member States since the 90’s, are contracted by the farmers on a voluntary basis. Since the enforcement, in 2005, of the cross-compliance of the whole CAP direct payment, almost all farms in the EU are now subject to environmental and sanitary constraints. The efficiency of these mechanisms and their consistency with pre-existing instruments are nonetheless questionable, as shown by various research and evaluation reports. However, the provision of public goods through agriculture can be seen as a legitimate objective of the agricultural policy, even though the clear wish to propose a simplified CAP does not prima facie fit with a broad consideration of the public good issue in agriculture. This article proposes a critical review of the CAP in reference to that objective. A particular attention is paid to the provision of environmental public goods based on the assessment of past actions and recent progress. Besides, we question whether the CAP should, and could, support the farmers in meeting objectives in terms of environmental production. Our analysis intends to shed light on these issues which are currently largely debated. Finally, we present perspectives offered by economic instruments that could be mobilised in view of delineating the different options for the future CAP (post-2013). Within the next years technological progress, market forces, and the impacts of climate change will probably be the most important drivers of the evolution of agricultural structures, and therefore of the provision of environmental public goods. With its influence on the various determinants of the agricultural activities, the CAP has a key-role to play in the provision of such public goods. Hence, the future policy will have to pay greater attention to public goods if, in response to the social demand, it is decided to make them one of the backbones of the new CAP design. However, such a greening reorientation of the policy can turn thorny with respect to the maintenance of the initial objectives of the European policy: securing farms’ viability and maintaining the competitiveness of the agricultural sector within the EU.
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