Introduction: European agriculture has gone through troubled times. The critical point was reached in the 1980s. Support policies had increased production far beyond market demand. Allegations of support abuse were ripe. Policy-makers responded by partially replacing input- and output-linked forms of producer support with others. However, radical reform was avoided. In the period 2002-2004, the level of support to producers still amounted to approximately 30% of farm receipts in the EU, and 70% in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. In the public eye, intensified agricultural production was also labelled a key culprit in environmental degradation. In the 1990s (notably in the reform plans set forth in the Agenda 2000 under Commissioner Franz Fischler), the EU responded by advocating the "multifunctionality" concept of agriculture. Among the EU's trading partners, the concept quickly gained notoriety. Non-trade concerns on environmental protection, rural development, food safety, and technological barriers were routinely criticised as concealed protectionism. Since the end of the Fischler era, the multifunctionality concept has largely disappeared from official EU vocabulary, and trade liberalisation has gained a more prominent (and hotly disputed) role on the agenda. The paper analyses the degree to which agenda-setting processes in the political arena reflected (and sometimes prompted) changes in public opinion on agricultural policy. Furthermore, the paper assesses the degree to which attitudes towards specific agricultural issues are embedded in systems of more general socio-political attitudes and values, and identifies the psychological processes through which issues rise or fall on individual agendas. Finally, recommendations are outlined as to how agricultural researchers, producers, and their respective lobby organisations may manage issues and respond to changes in public opinion.
MAPP; Europæisk landbrug; Holdninger; Den offentlige opinion; European agriculture; Attitudes; Public opinion
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8th European Conference on Higher Agricultural Education, 2006