Thursday

24th Jan 2019

EU agrees agriculture policy reform

  • Green groups say big farms and multinationals are the biggest winners (Photo: maraker)

EU member states and the European Parliament on Wednesday (26 June) agreed major changes to the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The deal will determine how the €50 billion a year pot is divided among countries over the next 2014-2020 period.

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CAP - which eats up the biggest chunk of the EU budget - is meant to aid farmers throughout the EU, but has been criticised for the opaque way it distributes subsidies.

The biggest losers in the new deal are set to be large farms in countries such as France and Germany, as the agreement changes how entitlements for subsidies are calculated, no longer tying historical production levels to direct payments.

To stop large farms losing too much of their current subsidies, the deal gives governments the option of limiting the losses to 30 percent.

Farmers receiving the least amount of direct payments per hectare will be entitled to at least 60 percent of the national or regional average.

Other provisions include abolishing sugar quotas by 2017, mandatory aid for young farmers, and tying some direct payments to help the environment in rural areas.

“The agreement represents a hugely significant development in the history of the CAP,” said Irish agricultural minister Simon Coveney, who led the negotiations on behalf of member states.

Italian Socialist MEP Paolo De Castro, who heads the parliament’s lead committee on the file, called the deal a major victory for farmers and consumers alike.

Meanwhile, one issue which remains to be decided is a proposals to limit payments to large farms to €300,000 a year - something governments say should be optional but which parliament wants to be mandatory.

Missed opportunity

For their part, pro-environment groups say the deal is riddled with loopholes that benefit big business and harm the environment.

Tony Long, director of the Brussels-based WWF, said the package “will come back to haunt farmers and the public.”

He also said the deal would undermine good farming practices to the detriment of the environment.

Under the compromise, 30 percent of all future direct subsidies would be dependent on farmers becoming greener, including leaving 5 percent of their arable land fallow for wildlife.

But this was weaker than what was originally proposed.

“At every turn the agriculture committee has tried to water down this reform. It even managed to throw out the few improvements the parliament plenary had requested of them,” said Long.

Other pro-green NGOs voiced similar concerns.

Friends of the Earth Europe says the fund still commits most of the money towards benefitting industrial farming, multinationals and large-scale farms.

It says the subsidy distribution is unfair and will ruin small and family-run farms.

“This is a disaster for the environment, small farmers and developing countries,” said Stanka Becheva, farming policy expert at Friends of the Earth Europe.

The package must now be voted in the European Parliament’s plenary next week.

Farm subsidies open to public scrutiny

EU governments have started publishing the names and addresses of farmers receiving EU farm subsidies, as part of reforms to the bloc’s common agricultural policy.

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