27th Jan 2022

MEPs side with commission over limits to farm subsidies

  • MEPs say they support a 'greening' of the CAP, provided it doesn't increase paperwork (Photo: lant_70)

Members of the European Parliament's agriculture committee have thrown their support behind commission plans to limit farm payments under a reformed common agricultural policy (CAP), but warned against future increases in bureaucracy for farmers.

The MEPs also signaled their support for a more environmentally-friendly CAP post 2013 and stressed the need for European food security, adopting a report by German centre-right MEP Albert Dess on Wednesday (25 May) by a large majority.

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The full complement of euro-deputies sitting in plenary this June is now expected to back the resolution, setting out parliament's response to non-legislative commission proposals on CAP reform.

Published in November, the commission plans called for a limit to be placed on the amount of EU money handed out to Europe's largest farms and farming businesses, with hundreds currently receiving over €1 million a year.

EU agriculture ministers rejected the idea in March however, with EU farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos declaring his intention to push ahead regardless. Legislative proposals on CAP reform are expected this autumn.

Ciolos now appears to have gained an ally, with MEPs gaining co-decision powers over the EU's farming policy under the Lisbon Treaty. "The majority [of committee members] were in favour of some scaling of payments. We are very interested to see what the commission will propose," Dess told journalists after Wednesday's vote.

Another commission proposal - to provide EU farmers with a system of top-up payments for environmentally-friendly activities - was criticised by MEPs, however. Instead they want to see subsidies in this area built into the current payments scheme.

"We all agree on the need to 'green' the CAP, but it must not become an administrative burden for our farmers," said Socialist Italian MEP Paolo De Castro, chair of the agriculture committee.

The euro-deputies also called for a fairer distribution of EU farm subsidies post 2013, with the current system of calculating the handouts producing wide divergences, ranging from over €500 per hectare in Greece to less than €100 in Latvia.

Wednesday's resolution assumes the overall size of the CAP budget will remain the same under the future reformed policy, despite calls from several member state governments for national austerity measures to be replicated in Brussels.

Within the commission itself, voices are increasingly clamouring for a slice of the CAP's €55 billion annual budget, with funding for the EU's new external action service among the additional pressures on the EU budget.

EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski is scheduled to publish his long-term budget proposals before the summer recess, providing greater clarity to the debate over CAP reform.

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