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GROWTH - 24 April 2015

How should the EU support agriculture in all its variety?

by Farm Europe

The European Union’s (EU) agriculture is highly varied in terms of Member States’ (MS) average farm size, business type, weather, soil, social and economic conditions, etc. As well as this, technologies and markets are rapidly advancing. In order to ensure effective policy frameworks and subsequent sustainable and balanced development, public policy must take into account these variations and advances. This briefing looks at the context of the relevant public policy and agriculture in Europe and considers the key questions and discussion points that arise from this.

The 1992 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform’s provision of European aid to farmers based on the surface area of land farmed has remained the case despite various other reforms and adjustments.

The 2003 reform created a system of flat-rate payments per agricultural parcel on the same basis.

The 2013 reforms saw 22 of 28 MS bring in reductions of direct payments per farm-holding per annum of above €150,000; 8 MS cap the maximum annual amount of basic payments for each farm; 8 MS introduce a system of redistributive payments with the aim of supporting single farm holdings of around the national average farm size; and 15 MS introduced a specific scheme for small farms, although only 2 provide equal value flat-rate payments to all the farms targeted by the scheme.

The concept of a single European farm has been rejected by policymakers due to the diverse conditions, and resulting variety of agricultural holdings, across MS. This diversity coupled with the profound and rapid changes in technologies and markets, and their consequences for European agriculture in terms of numbers of farmers, education etc., creates a need for public policy to provide framework conditions in which all agricultural businesses can develop and thrive.

Official figures show that of 12 million European agricultural holdings, 6 million are less than 2 ha in size with a total of 2.5% of arable land. In contrast to this, 50% of arable land is farmed by 300,000 agricultural holdings of more than 100ha. It is important to note that farms recorded by MS or the European Commission are actually only legal entities under the label of single ‘agricultural holdings’, and as such there is not necessarily a complete picture of the actual types of joint agricultural business in operation.

Read the full document attached for the discussions points.

Written by Farm Europe