EU hails 'fairer' farm subsidy reform
(BRUSSELS) - A reform of EU farm subsidies agreed this week will favour young farmers and smallholders over big business as well as more eco-friendly farming in a "paradigm shift" for Europe, a top official said on Thursday after three months of talks.
"We wanted to have a fairer and more economical Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as well as one that is more in touch with the modern world," the EU's Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos told reporters in Brussels.
"This is the start of a paradigm shift for the CAP," he said.
Paolo De Castro, head of the Parliament's farm committee, said the deal was "a victory for EU farmers and consumers".
Fellow European lawmaker Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos said it signalled the end of a "dependency culture" for farm subsidies.
Under the deal, which still has to be approved by Parliament, farmers under 40 years old will get extra subsidies.
Ciolos said it was "positive discrimination" for young farmers.
The deal states that 30 percent of EU members' farm payments will also be spent on "green" measures like crop diversification, maintaining grassland and creating ecological areas.
The reform would also give farmers' organisations a greater role in helping farmers cope with market volatility.
"This reform moves the CAP more towards a market economy. With this reform we let the markets play their role but we also give farmers a chance to play their role," Ciolos said.
The CAP accounts for about 38 percent of the EU's budget.
CAP reform is due to be implemented starting in 2014 but the new subsidy system would not be in place before 2015 due to delays in negotiations on Europe's next budget.
Under the current rules, 80 percent of CAP payments go to the top 20 percent of intensive farm businesses since several countries still link the subsidies to production levels.
Member states now have to ensure that by 2019 each farmer receives at least 60 percent of the average national or regional subsidy per hectare.
The reforms are due to be implemented gradually from 2014.