New research shows that even after the recent CAP reforms, rich regions in Germany, the UK, France and the Netherlands will take a greater slice of the €90bn farming subsidies than poorer regions in south-eastern and eastern Europe. The two-year study, one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken of the CAP by researchers at Newcastle and Aberdeen universities, is reported in a book on 'CAP and the Regions' edited by M Shucksmith, K Thomson and D Roberts.
About 80 per cent of the subsidies go towards supporting grain, beef and dairy products, the staple products of often large scale northern European farmers while less goes to products such as olive oil and wine which are predominantly grown in southern Europe. This in stark contrast to the objectives of EU 'cohesion' policy which seeks to reduce regional inequalities.
The authors see the principal problem as the emphasis placed on market support and direct subsidies in pillar 1 of the CAP compared with pillar 2 (rural development). Funds should be redistributed from pillar 1 to pillar 2.
However, pillar 2 did not escape criticism. Agri-environment schemes were less effective in the less prosperous regions of Europe and richer EU states tended to prioritise agri-environmental objectives more than poorer regions.
Austria was singled out as a country where agri-environment and Less Favoured Area payments had been put to good use and the money used intelligently to benefit those who needed it most. In contrast, Scotland had made a poor use of funds by adding national funding to LFA payments so that there were no losers, an approach often found in agricultural policy.