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Stories today based on a Greenpeace report about EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies to large landowners cover a matter which has been widely debated over many years and are mostly accurate, as far as they go. But not all of them give quite the full picture.
EU rules allow Member States to cut substantially so-called “basic payments” under the CAP to large landowners, such as most of those cited in the Greenpeace report, by applying an upper limit (ceiling). Nine Member States do so.
In the UK, such a ceiling is applied in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – with the resulting funds generated remaining in those regions for rural development projects.
The UK chooses not to apply a ceiling in England.
The European Commission’s repeated proposals for more radical reform have been watered down by national Ministers.
Only active farms are eligible for CAP funding as long as the farmer keeps his land in a state suitable for agricultural production. The business of breeding racehorses is not supported, though the land on which horses graze might qualify if it meets the criteria.
Basic payments account for in the UK and most Member States for around 70% of all CAP payments made to farmers.
In 2010, the European Commission proposed extensive reforms to the CAP, including to place a compulsory ceiling on payments to large landowners under the CAP’s basic payment scheme, thus putting an end to payments at the levels referred to in today’s reports.
A number of Member States combined to oppose these proposals.
As no EU law can be adopted without approval from both Member States and MEPs, this meant the extensive reform package implemented from 2014 did not include any compulsory ceilings, only a reduction of 5% on all amounts over €150 000.
However, an option was left open for individual Member States to apply a ceiling at national level.
Similar proposals to limit the amount of payment per individual farm were made by the Commission in successive CAP reform exercises since 1992 – but were always blocked by Member States.
In the UK, ceilings are now applied in Northern Ireland (€150 000), Wales (€300 000) and Scotland (€600 000). Read the full entry