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Discursive Shifts and the Common Agricultural Policy: Ideational Hegemony or Contestation?

Environmental Policy
European Politics
Governance
Interest Groups
Policy Analysis
Constructivism
Narratives
Policy Change
Peter H. Feindt
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Peter H. Feindt
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Abstract

The discursive construction of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union has received increasing attention among scholars over recent years. Scholars in the 1990s and early 2000s (Coleman, Grant, Potter, Skogstad, Josling and Moyer) had diagnosed a move from an exceptionalist and productivist discourse that constructs farmers as producers and dependent on state support, towards either market liberalism that sees farmers as competitive entrepreneurs on open markets, or towards a multifunctional discourse that constructs farmers as producers of marketable and non-marketable, public goods that need to be remunerated by public money. The 2013 mini-reform of the CAP has been widely assess as a partial return to productivist ideas and the multifunctional justifications were increasingly seen as minor adjustments at the policy margins to justify the core of the policy – tax-funded income support for farmers – to the broader public (e.g., Daugberg and Swinbank, Swinnen). A more detailed discourse analysis of CAP-related policy documents has found an increasingly hybrid discourse that mixes elements of the productivist, neoliberal and multifunctional discourse (Erjavec and Erjavec, Alons, Rutz et al.), often within the same paragraph or sentence (Feindt). This creates interesting questions about the development of such an over-determined linguistic and ideational framework for the future direction of the CAP. It also raises questions about ideational power (Carstensen and Schmidt) in the CAP arena. This Paper will present a discourse analysis of the submissions to the public online consultation by the European Commission on the future of the CAP after 2020. The three-month consultation was started in February 2017. The analysis will be guided by the following expectations: (1) farm groups will defend the current CAP, using a productivist discourse that embraces food security and rural development arguments; (2) environmental groups will embark on a public goods discourse and interpret food security as requiring responsible ecological stewardship of natural resource; (3) industry groups will emphasise international competitiveness and harmonisation; (4) submissions from each group will vary significantly, depending on the member state of origin; (5) recent international developments will reinforce the evocation of security-related arguments. Overall the expectation is that a hybrid discourse will prevail. However, each actor group will have a leading discourse that will shape the articulation of the other discourses. Productivism retains significant ideational power but is far from hegemonic.