Over the last half century — and even before that — the rural, and in particular, the agricultural sector in economically advanced countries has been subject to specific regulation which appeared to place it in a privileged category as compared with other economic sectors. The main objectives behind this policy, ably stated for Europe in Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome, were, in short, a guaranteed food supply for consumers at reasonable prices and an equitable level of income for farmers. They are difficult to contest and are likely to be acceptable into the next millennium. But whilst these were paramount in times of scarcity of supply, in times of plenty they take their place alongside wider and more ambitious targets and the means of achieving these new and old ends will inevitably bring changes in the institutional framework within which rural operators work.
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