“Health check” could lead to CAP-subsidy cap

The planned review of the EU’s agricultural policy in 2008 could lead to lower ceilings for farm subsidies after data show that EU funds mainly benefit big businesses.

Meeting to discuss the future challenges of the agriculture sector with EU Agriculture Ministers in Finland on 26 September 2006, Commissioner Fischer Boël, pointed to the fact that “capping” subsidies to European farmers is one of the issues that will have to be addressed in the 2008 review in order both to respond to “pressure to find savings in the CAP” and to obtain a “broader, societal acceptance of our reformed CAP”. 

The launch of the Commission’s Transparency Initiative in November 2005, which led member states to disclose information on the beneficiaries of EU farm subsidies (see EURACTIV 3 May 2006), has further increased pressure on the EU to reform its agricultural model after it highlighted the CAP’s tendency to benefit large businesses and landowners rather than small farmers (see EURACTIV 18 July 2006). 

Some of the main beneficiaries of EU farm subsidies are not yet participating in the scheme, but Germany – which received 14% of EU agricultural aid in 2004 – has now announced that it could back the Commission’s campaign, leaving only Finland, Poland, Greece and Austria out. 

Ariel Brunner from Birdlife said: “The recent budget deal, slashing the budget for Rural development, while maintaining intact the budget for outdated subsidies has done a dismal service both to European biodiversity and to the CAP’s credibility.” 

Fischer Boël also appears in favour of a strong reform although she reassured certain member states that although “some seem even to believe that this rendez-vous could be the moment to dismantle the CAP”, she is not “in this camp”, adding: “On the contrary, our agriculture and our rural areas will continue to need a strong CAP, also after 2013.” 

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