THE EU Commission looks set to propose large direct payments to sugar growers, and this would be against the spirit of CAP reform, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Up until now, most of the £1bn allocated to sugar in the CAP has been spent on export subsidies because Europe produces far more sugar than it consumes.
These export subsidies are going to be phased out, but the European Commission is proposing that most of this money be paid directly to farmers instead.
The RSPB, however, believes some of the sugar subsidy money should be used to reward sugar beet growers in a decoupled way, i.e. for keeping their farms in good environmental shape rather than for producing sugar.
The organisation points out that beet is an important crop for farmland birds in Britain, providing nesting and feeding sites and in winter, in Norfolk, providing food for almost half the world’s population of pink-footed geese.
Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, head of agriculture policy at the RSPB, said: “There is no conceivable reason why the reform of sugar subsidies should so blatantly flout the spirit and intent of other CAP reforms.
“While some birds, such as pink-footed geese, are doing well on sugar beet fields here, they and others would do as well or better, if sugar growers were supported for using environmentally friendly farming methods,” Dr Armstrong Brown said.
The reform proposal is due to be put to farm ministers when they meet this Wednesday in Brussels.
If they agree, the 230,000 EU farmers growing sugar between 2000 and 2002 will receive a huge, direct subsidy.
In the UK, this will be equivalent to as much as £460 per hectare farmed compared to other arable farmers, who receive around £200 per hectare.
In France, sugar growers will be paid the equivalent of £474.50 per hectare.