The CAP has never tasted better… Until now!

Guest article by Michaela Skodova, ‘CAP, What’s cooking?’ Communication Manager

Over the last 50 years the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has played a crucial role in giving support to farmers to ensure that consumers have enough food at affordable prices. Yet, almost nobody knows about this policy and the ways it still affects all European citizens on a daily basis. How come?

Well, first of all, it’s a pretty complex policy. If you really want to know about it, there’s about a 1,000 pages of legal texts full of mind boggling technical jargon to go through. If you Google ‘CAP’ or ‘Common Agricultural Policy’ you will probably end up on the CAP Wikipedia page or the site of DG AGRI, the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, where you can find information that is a bit more accessible and understandable. But even so, it takes quite some effort to even get the basics.

“So, why should I care? The CAP supports farmers, right? What does this have to do with me? As long as I can buy sufficient food of pretty good quality at reasonable prices, I see no point in spending my precious time in getting to know this policy.”

Here’s why you should re-consider: Every year some 53 billion euro (yes, that’s 53 with nine zero’s!) is spent on the CAP. That’s your tax payer’s money. And wouldn’t you like to have some say in how this money is being spent? Also, with you, more and more people are concerned about their food: is it safe? Is it healthy? Is it produced in a way that doesn’t pollute the environment, destroys nature and mistreats farm animals? This had a direct relation to the way the CAP is functioning. As Joris Lohman, member of the Executive Committee for Slow Food International states: “The Common Agricultural Policy is of crucial importance to every ‘eater’. Yet due to its complexity, many people do not understand what impact the CAP has on their daily lives.

History shows, that if citizens do not get engaged in the debate on the future of agriculture and food production, if we leave this to farmers but even more to politicians, that nothing much will change or at least very, very slowly. So, citizens (you and me) need to get engaged. The first step is to learn about this policy, starting with the basics. To make this complicated policy more accessible and ‘digestible’, the Groupe de Bruges, Slow Food Youth Network and CEJA (the European Young Farmers Organisation) have joined forces to develop the ‘CAP, What’s cooking?’ project.

The general idea is to take food as the main entry point to get people, especially young people, involved in the discussion: How is your food produced? How is it processed and sold? The project centres around eight young farmers, men and women, from eight European countries (Scotland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, France, Italy and Bulgaria). In March and April next year each of them will host an open, one day event on their farm, where citizens can get a taste of the farmer’ life. During the day there will also be cooking demonstrations by local chefs and debate as well as lectures on the relation between farming, food and policy. The farmers and chefs will also star in a CAP ‘Cook Book’ that will be presented at our closing event in Amsterdam in April next year.

The ‘CAP, What’s Cooking’ project will kick off on October 4th in Milan as part of the Terra Madre Giovani - We Feed The Planet event at the Italian Makers Village, with presentations of the farmers, live demonstrations by chefs and much more. Go to www.capwhatscooking.eu to find out more and we hope to see you there!