Got milk? The European Parliament sure does. European dairy farmers were in Brussels this week to protest proposed changes in dairy regulations.
At the heart of both of these issues is the EU’s massive and wasteful Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which in the span of a week seems to have enraged both British Prime Minister David Cameron and bovines in Bordeaux.
What is lost in all of this is just how selfish and wasteful these agricultural policies are. Subsidies and price controls are protectionist measures that insulate European farmers from the world market, raising prices on foodstuffs and distorting the market for goods.
In particular, they hurt the world’s most vulnerable. Millions of people in developing nations—which are normally agriculturally endowed—are blocked from the European market and prevented from profiting off of European consumers. This stifles development in third-world countries and keeps millions in poverty.
Not only does CAP hurt the poorest in developing nations, but it is a millstone around the neck of an already austere Europe. CAP is hugely expensive, making up 47.6 percent of the entire EU budget—which leaders proposed be set at $1.31 trillion for the 2014–2020 period. Eurocrats in Brussels are infamous for wasting funds, but in reality the finger should be pointed at European farmers.
If the international community is ever going to attack global poverty, it should start by reforming farm subsidies like CAP and the U.S. farm bill. The developed world’s fondness for wasteful agriculture policies sends the wrong message about free trade. European leaders should not pass up this opportunity to reduce the EU budget and tighten these wasteful subsidies.