Auditors criticise EU farm subsidy system

Farm subsidies are too complex, with money often going to recipients who have little or nothing to do with farming, says a report by EU auditors.

In its first special report on the Single Payment Scheme, the European Court of Auditors says the subsidy system contains a number of questionable features despite supporting farm incomes and helping to maintain land in good condition.

Farmers may receive payments without having to carry out any maintenance activity and there is no direct link between the level of the SPS aid and the costs incurred in maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental condition, it warns.

Over time, payments have become divorced from current farming conditions, says the report. As a result, single payments have primarily benefited few but large beneficiaries, it adds.

The report calls on the European Commission to define eligible land and agricultural activity more clearly in order to exclude activities that do not increase agricultural productivity – as well as parcels not devoted to agriculture.

Brussels should consider directing aid to “active” farmers, the report says. It further recommends to take into consideration the cost of activities that positively contribute to the preservation or improvement of the environment.

Finally, the court also recommends that the value of the entitlements is based on current farming conditions in the various regions of the EU and that Brussels seeks a more balanced distribution of SPS aid between farmers.

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