The National Farmers Union and its Italian counterpart Coldiretti claim that agricultural supply for commodities like milk, wheat and corn have become increasing pivotal to the overall global economy as prices have increased and should therefore be supported. Representatives for the two unions therefore signed a common declaration encouraging rapid removal of subsidy payments such as set-aside and other support payments proposed as part of the health check of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms. Doing so will help ensure a more competitive food industry by supporting higher income for farmers, according to the unions. "European farmers have sought to guarantee food quality and security, transparently responding to consumer demands," they stated. "At the same time, they have contributed to the economic development of the EU giving added value to the whole territory." Dairy concerns Europe's dairy industry sector in particular is currently divided over farmer concerns regarding the higher production costs for goods like milk in relation to the market's move towards deregulation as part of the CAP reforms. This in turn has led to Europe-wide strikes by some farmers' groups, which have used the protests to call for a higher basic pay rate for their products to offset what they say are dramatic increases in production cost. However, leading processors such as Friesland Foods claim that supply and demand factors remain the best system to set milk price, as apposed to fixed income levels. Lower cost dangers At the joint meeting of the farmers unions held in London last week, the groups said that low farmgate prices would not just setback the agriculture sector, but the wider food industry as a whole. "Higher prices to Europe's farmers should be seen as a good thing. If they are sustained they will lead to greater developments in productive agriculture," stated the unions. "Furthermore the focus of the European Union's food policy must be to deliver greater competitiveness and reduced regulatory burdens on producers." In their common declaration, NFU president Peter Kendall and his Coldiretti counterpart Sergio Marini suggested that in opening up world food markets, there could be additional benefits for all farmers providing that common rules and standards can be maintained. According to both organisations, Europe is currently the leading importer of agricultural products from developing countries over Japan, the US, Canada and Australia. "Farmers in the developed world also have a role to play in supporting the development of agricultural in the developing world, through the transfer of ideas, skills and technology," the unions stated. "The NFU and Coldiretti have indicated they are ready to collaborate to help other farmers respond to calls for greater food production over the coming years."