Voting on a draft own-initiative report by German MEP Albert Dess (European People's Party), the committee said that the EU's farm budget should be kept at least at its current level when the policy is reformed from 2014, "in order to meet the challenges of food security, environmental protection and climate change".
The CAP budget is currently worth €55 billion a year and amounts to 40% of the bloc's total annual spending.
The report represents the lawmakers' first response to a European Commission paper on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2020, published in November 2010.
The draft paper was adopted by 40 votes to one amid four abstentions, and will be discussed and voted upon in a Parliament plenary session next month.
With the resolution, lawmakers are seeking to influence upcoming legislation on reforming and modernising the EU farming sector, a process which runs alongside discussions on the EU's next long-term budget for the period 2014-20, on which the Commission is due to make its proposals next month.
EU countries including France, Poland and the Netherlands have also called for the CAP budget to be kept at its present level, while the UK and Sweden want to see significant cuts in farm spending.
Greening the CAP
The lawmakers backed an EU-wide "incentivisation" system, 100% financed by the EU, to support farmers who opt for sustainable production methods and sound management of resources such as water, soil and energy.
Direct payments to farmers should also be more directly linked to "greening measures" such low carbon emissions, capture of greenhouse gas emissions and low energy consumption, they said.
The committee further noted that CAP money should be distributed more fairly between member states and farmers. They demanded that in future "each EU country should receive a minimum percentage of EU average payments," with direct payments reserved for "active farmers", the definition of which is yet to be agreed upon.
The 'old' member states of the EU-15 currently receive more financial support per farmer than the newer member states, and some of the payments go to wealthy landowners who do not necessarily use their land for production.
MEPs also backed Commission proposals to introduce a ceiling on direct payments per farmer and suggested that the size, the employment record and the degree of environmental protection of each farm should be taken into account when deciding on payments.