Family farmers must not be penalised by Common Agricultural Policy reform, Brussels has been told.

Ongoing financial support remains vital to provide an income for working livestock producers and growers unable to make a living from agriculture, the Family Farmers’ Association has warned.

The association said it accepted the need for CAP reform, but it warned that support was still needed so farmers could produce wholesome food at sensible prices and care for the countryside and its wildlife in the process.

Payments should be made only to people actively farming and not to landlords or food processors, said association chairman Pippa Woods.

“The CAP needs reform because it costs a lot and its money is not always used to best advantage.”

Rather than leave farmers at the mercy of the open market, direct support should continue, she added.

“This aid is absolutely essential for the survival of most farms, which are quite unable to produce a living for a farmer under present trading conditions.”

Rather than modulation, the association is calling for tapered or graduated payments so no single farm receives more than 100,000 euros. This would discourage the agglomeration of farms and the purchase of tracts of farmland by investors and speculators, it says.

“Simply to help all farmers to produce more profitably may actually damage disadvantaged farmers, especially where the problem is small size. Farmers who become prosperous inevitably use their wealth to buy more land.”

Rural development support – known as Pillar Two funding – should also be restricted to farmers, says the association. Programmes aimed specifically at helping smaller farms become viable would contribute greatly to the sustainability of rural communities.

At the same time, more help was needed to encourage new entrants into farming. Young people would be more willing to work on farms if they had the possibility of becoming farmers themselves in the future.

“It should be easier to get planning permission for a second house on a farm where there is need for a second worker or especially a son or daughter who wishes to work on the family farm and have a family of their own.”