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Bulgaria lobbies for fairer EU farming aid caps

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(SOFIA) - Bulgaria lobbied Germany's farming minister Ilse Aigner on Monday to back EU plans to cap farming subsidies, insisting the current distribution system was uneven, the agriculture ministry said.

"It is necessary to set a ceiling on direct payments (to farmers) because 78 percent of subsidies for Bulgaria go to 3.4 percent of all beneficiaries. This is unfair," Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov said in a statement after talks in Sofia with his German counterpart.

He noted that the problem of subsidies going to just a few farmers did not exist in Germany.

"The largest farms in Germany work 4,000-5,000 hectares (9,900-12,400 acres), while in Bulgaria there are farmers who work close to 100,000 hectares," Naydenov said.

"This leads to disproportionate payment distribution and the emergence of agro-millionaires to the detriment of smaller farmers," he added.

The EU has set out to radically overhaul its farming policy, seeking to make it greener and fairer.

Among other reforms to the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos wants to even out subsidies in the interests of fairness by capping payouts to farmers at 300,000 euros ($424,000) per year.

Germany, the Netherlands and Britain however oppose the measure, saying that a cap on subsidies could lead to a carve-up of large farms.

Aigner nevertheless agreed to press for a more regional approach to subsidy distribution in the planned reforms of the CAP for 2014-2020, Bulgaria's agriculture ministry said Monday.

She and Naydenov added that the CAP's budget should not be cut.

The subsidy cap won immmediate backing in Bulgaria, where giant farming companies have emerged over the past four years with the sole purpose of benefitting from the direct EU crop aid per hectare.

Between 2006 and 2010, Bulgarian farms received some 1.84 billion euros in direct farming aid.

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