The Common Agricultural Policy is in a continuous process of reforms. Price and market regulation are gradually reduced, income support is increasingly linked to the provision of public goods and a gradually growing portion of the budget is made available for rural development activities. In general these reforms are inevitable and timely, yet I wonder if they are sufficient considering today’s realities and tomorrow’s challenges. In particular I am thinking of the blurring boundaries between urban and rural (in particular with regards to economic activities and employment opportunities), urbanisation of the countryside, the diminishing economic significance of agriculture in rural areas and the rapid increase of food-related health (obesity, malnutrition) and environmental (waste, food miles) problems.
As many nation states as well as supranational governing bodies (e.g. the European Commission) fail to address these realities and challenges in a convincing and comprehensive way and also because of the regional/local specificity of problems and challenges, we are now witnessing the rapid rise of peri-urban regions engaged in developing rural development strategies (e.g. the PURPLE network) and cities (e.g. London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam) designing and implementing their own food strategies. Although I am strongly in favour of the subsidiarity principle I do believe that local/regional initiatives can develop more efficient and effective when they fit within a broader policy framework at (supra)national level. In that respect I think that it would be favourable if the ongoing CAP reforms ultimately result in a disappearance of the CAP and the appearance of two new policy frameworks arising out of the CAP: a Common Regional Policy (CRP) focusing on the sustainable development of regions (encompassing both urban and rural areas) and a Common Food Policy (CRP) addressing the multidimensionality (health, environment, equity, employment, etc.) of food. A CRP would require a ‘merger’ of current rural and regional development policies (and thus the integration of DG Regional Policy and the rural development part of DG Agriculture and Rural Development), whereas a CFP would be based upon an integration of policies in the domains of agriculture, health, consumer protection, environment, transport, social affairs and equal opportunities. I am fully aware that this is utopian at this moment, yet in the longer run the notions of CRP and CFP may serve as a guideline for further policy reforms.