Cash crisis hits EU’s farm policy reform

Cash crisis hits EU’s farm policy reform

BRUSSELS - Reuters
European Union politicians will scale back or ditch reforms to the farm subsidy system as they seek to mollify powerful farmers’ lobbies angry at subsidy cuts forced on them by the bloc’s debt crisis.

With EU leaders likely to agree on a 10 percent reduction in farm spending from next year, governments and lawmakers want to water down plans to reform the 50-year-old common agricultural policy (CAP).

The debate centres on European Commission proposals to impose new environmental requirements on farmers and share out the subsidies more fairly across the 27-country bloc. Member governments and the European Parliament must approve the plans before they become law.

Critics of the Commission’s reform proposals say dilution is essential to avoid damaging Europe’s agricultural productivity.

“The proposals would increase unemployment in rural areas and risk deepening the EU’s current economic crisis,” said Pekka Pesonen, head of EU farm lobby COPA-COGECA.

German farm minister Ilse Aigner described the Commission’s bid to boost environmental standards by forcing farmers to leave 7 percent of their cropland fallow as “absurd”.

Talks on the European Union’s long-term budget for 2014-2020, which began in November and will continue in early February, have already whittled down the total for agriculture to about 360 billion euros ($480 billion).

That compares with about 400 billion euros in the current seven-year budget when measured in 2011 prices.