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Country News - 2003

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New fears over EU farm subsidies

Wednesday 14 May 2003

FEARS of yet another EU debacle over farm subsidy payments will be raised at a conference of chartered surveyors and land agents in Harrogate today.

After years of haggling, the EU is reluctantly considering changing the way subsidies are paid to reward farmers and landowners for their work in preserving the countryside rather than the amount of food they produce.

This is a move likely to be welcomed by both the British government and bodies like the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

But under proposals being studied in Brussels, these payments would go to a named farmer, rather than to the land involved, and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors will be told today that this could lead to a "black-market" in subsidies.

Mark Hudson, deputy president of the CLA, is to tell the conference that a named farmer could sell up his land and take the subsidy payments with him - leaving with incoming owner with no public support.

This, the CLA believes, would further undermine public confidence in the agricultural industry.

To millions of non-farmers, such proposals must sound ludicrous - but it has happened before. When milk quotas were introduced some ten years, some farmers sold or leased their quotas to neighbours - often for tens of thousands of pounds - and sold their herds too.

This meant they could continue to receive regular payments - without having to bother with farming! However, when milk prices dropped dramatically three or four years ago, many dairy farmers who had bought such quotas were forced into bankruptcy.


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