Single farm payments should no longer be based on historic production levels and past subsidy receipts, according to EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.
Addressing an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brno, Czech Republic this week she said that the debate on what form the common agricultural policy should take post-2013 had already begun.
And as part of that, it was necessary to determine the future role and form of the single farm payment.
“I believe that some form of basic income safety net will be needed,” she told the meeting. But SFPs should also be linked to the delivery of public goods “to avoid further intensification and industrialisation of farming which could entail serious environmental, economic and social consequences”.
Mrs Fischer Boel also told ministers it was important to rebalance the distribution of direct payments. The CAP “health check” had already given member states the option to move to flat rate regional payments and this was an option that should be further explored.
In a somewhat guarded speech she asked whether, in future, direct payments should be decoupled from historic links and only made available to active farmers.
But her spokesman Michael Mann later told Farmers Weekly this was Mrs Fischer Boel’s clear preference. “She firmly believes there is no sense in two neighbouring farmers getting widely different levels of payment on the basis of what they were doing more than 10 years ago. As far as she is concerned, historic payments have to go.”
Press reports from the meeting suggested many ministers agreed with the commissioner’s position.
Several ministers also called for an equalisation in payments between the new EU member states in the east and the old member states in the west.
Others demanded a new approach to the distribution of funds for rural development. The UK has long-argued that it gets a disproportionately small allocation, because it historically made less use of rural development.
For a Farmers Weekly comment on this story, see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog