Our distant cousins are about (perhaps) to reform EU farm subsidies.
The changes would award 30% of subsidies to farms that maintain permanent pasture, biodiversity in crops, and uncultivated spaces. It also proposes decreasing subsidies on a sliding scale for farms receiving more than €150,000 in annual subsidies, with a cap on subsidies at €300,000. These measures will remove funding for Europe's largest farms, which currently receive the majority of subsidies, and encourage them to alter intensive farming practices.This is ominous, or least unsettling, for our sugar industry. They have frequently pointed to EU subsidies as an excuse for our wretched protectionsism.
Geneviève Savigny a lobbyist for small farmers, says that this penalization will not produce its intended consequences because it is not aggressive enough.
"The cap is still very, very high," she said. "It will make a difference for large farmers, but it won't have a very big effect on smaller farms."
Smaller farms may be helped, however, by the overhaul's proposal for member states to increase distribution of payments based on production. These types of payments were largely outlawed in 2003 in an effort to bring Europe's farm subsidy program in line with international rules set by the World Trade Organization. Negotiators must still agree on how big these payments will allowed to be.
The proposed overhaul would impose fundamental changes on Europe's system of market regulations, which are supposed to buffer farmers from wild swings in global commodity prices but have run afoul of WTO rules. Negotiators must set a date to end to Europe's sugar production and export quotas, blamed for pushing up domestic prices. [More]
The €300,000 payment cap has been strongly opposed by large farms, so progress in this direction is a major step forward.
The European Commission wanted to cap single farm payment subsidies at 300,000 euros (£257,000; $397,000) a year, but governments led by the UK and Germany are reported to have crushed that proposal.I can't help but notice the difference in reportage between the BBC and WSJ, with the latter seeming more optimistic agreement can be reached. Whether something has happened in the last few days or just bad interpretation is hard to tell.
Big farmers are often the most efficient, they said, and should not be penalised for that.
The UK and Germany have many big farms, efficient at producing food intensively, and the big landowners are a powerful lobby in both countries. In contrast, France has many small, traditional farms, often less efficient.
It is the latest blow to the Commission’s plans, as its master scheme to radically reform the Common Agricultural Policy approaches an endgame, with key negotiations in Luxembourg next week.
It is already clear that the Commission’s original proposals for “greening” the CAP - forcing farmers to earn 30% of their subsidies by protecting the environment - have been heavily watered down after resistance from big farmers. [More]