The number of rural jobs created by individual farms should be one of the criteria used to decide the level of European Union subsidies they receive, a European Commission spokesman said April 22.
The European Union executive is developing its ideas for reforming the 27-nation bloc’s common agricultural policy (CAP) from 2013, and a key issue facing the commission is how to allocate billions of euros a year in direct payments to farmers.
“People complain that lots of cash currently goes to large farms and very little goes to small farms. I agree, but we need objective criteria for allocating direct payments,” said Roger Waite, spokesman for EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.
“Employment should be one of the criteria for direct payments in future,” he told a conference of agricultural journalists in Brussels.
During the last CAP reform in 2008, the commission proposed a limit on direct subsidies to individual farms of 300,000 euros ($403,300) a year, but EU governments rejected the idea.
“Some press reports have said we want to try again to put a cap on direct payments, but this is not yet certain,” Waite added.
Direct payments account for about 70 per cent of the CAP’s 40 billion euro annual budget and most governments allocate them on the basis of historic production levels.
Rural development measures – designed to help farmers promote environmental standards, competitiveness and economic diversification – account for 20 to 25 per cent of the CAP budget, but many experts expect that share to increase in the reform.