EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about EU farm policy was published on 19th November 2010.

The European Commission yesterday (18 November) unveiled its blueprint for reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), proposing to increase subsidies to smaller East European farmers and to link direct payments to environmental and food security goals.

The EU executive says payments to farmers under the reformed policy must be distributed more fairly to benefit the newer EU member states of Central and Eastern Europe that joined the bloc in 2004.

“The CAP has never been so close to a crisis of legitimacy as it is today,” EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolo? told EU lawmakers in Brussels.

“This is an opportune moment to refocus [the CAP] in line with the expectations of society,” he added, referring to challenges such as food security and climate change.

The central plank of the Commission’s proposal is to overhaul the distribution criteria for payments to farmers in order to take account of the EU’s eastern enlargement.

Current aid criteria are “inherited from the past,” the Commission explained, saying that aid amounts were calculated based on the production volumes of the “old” EU member states in 2000-2002.

Payments between old and new member states currently vary from over €500 per hectare in Greece to less than €100 in Latvia. “We now need to turn these into a more objective and fairer mechanism for all farmers and member states,” the EU executive explained in a briefing note.

The Commission ruled out an EU-wide flat-rate subsidy, but said farmers in all countries could receive a minimum percentage of the EU average rate – currently about 250 euros per hectare.

A ceiling on payments would also be introduced to avoid the funds being siphoned off by large industrial farms at the expense of smaller ones.

The proposals, unveiled yesterday (18 November), contain no details on the future size of the CAP budget, which consumes about €55 billion of the bloc’s €130 billion annual budget.

The debate will start in July next year, when the Commission makes its proposal for the EU’s long-term budget (2014-2020).

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