My political vision of the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Germany has been shaped by its rural areas, home to two thirds of the population and whose production rate represents 57% of German economic performance. It is the agricultural sector in particular that contributes to job creation and the growth of these areas. If they are to maintain a healthy level of production, our farmers need stability and economic prospects within the European market. This is why I am fighting in Europe for a secure, forward-looking common agricultural policy (CAP).
For more than fifty years now, the CAP has made a significant contribution to the construction of a united Europe where after the horrors of the Second World War, its citizens can live in prosperity and with the certainty that they will receive their daily bread. An integral part of the Rome Treaties, the CAP was one of the fundamental pillars of the construction of Europe from the outset. Completed in 1958, it came into force in 1962. In 1950, the food produced by one farmer could only feed 10 people. Today, the figure has risen to 135. Nowadays, Germans have no difficulty buying French products such as wine and cheese. The same goes for the French who can easily have Black Forest ham or Bavarian beer delivered. The CAP therefore, like no other policy, contributes to the success of European integration.
There have nonetheless been a few clouds on the horizon, such as the "butter mountains" and milk surpluses. But these have been overcome by orienting production towards the needs of the market and through modernisation. For a long time now in Germany, we have abolished payments based on the quantities produced. Our system could not be simpler. In Germany, all our farmers receive a single payment to farm their land. In principle, Germany is in favour of integrating an ecological strategy into the CAP. Nonetheless, it is vital that the ecology principle defended by the Commission allows for the productive use of the land, and one that is particularly concerned for the environment even in areas where ecology is given priority. The right approach cannot be to forbid production over an area representing seven per cent of arable land because this amounts to placing a considerable proportion of a limited precious resource out of bounds to agriculture. I am committed to sustainable farming that favours the optimal use of this rare resource over all our arable land. Shoulder to shoulder, Germany and France will continue to defend this objective in Brussels.
Concerning the negotiations on the amount of the European budget to be allocated to agriculture after 2014, I respect fixed principles. We must remain faithful to the first major pillar by ensuring direct payments that offer our farmers some compensation for the services they render to the benefit of society in general. The second pillar must be financially well endowed so that our rural areas remain attractive to people of all ages. According to a recent statistic, a European tax-payer contributes 30 centimes a day to the Common Agricultural Policy. In my opinion, this sum constitutes a good investment, ensuring as it does reliable, high-quality food supplies from a wide variety of cultivated landscapes. We no longer experience famine in the Europe of today. We should be happy to be united in Europe. This great good luck has been made possible for us largely as a result of the CAP, which gives our farmers the assurance of being able to plan ahead and of dependability. Together with France, this is the basis on which I intend to continue to pursue my commitment.