Given that milk quota has been actively traded in the UK, producing so-called 'sofa milkers', it should come as no surprise that Single Farm Payments are now being bought and sold. Agricultural brokers WebbPaton did fifteen deals in one day recently. The market has been described as 'ferocious' with rights to subsidies 'flying off the shelf'. There's an element of risk, but an investor could receive one-third of the original investment back each year.
When the single farm payment was set up, farmers were given the right to trade subsidy entitlements between themselves which makes sense as it allows individual farmers to adjust their own businesses in the light of their assessment of market conditions. Farmers started trading among themselves, but the profitability brought in a wider range of investors. Open auctions are being held, while other investors are buying rights to subsidies over the telephone through brokers or on internet sites. You can find out more at WebbPaton's web site: Entitlement
You have to be classified as a farmer to receive subsidies, but you only need hold a lease on a minimum of 1.7 acres for ten months of the year and never have to visit it. Scottish landowners are now renting out tracts of rocky highland for as little as £5 an acre per year.
The market that has developed does enable farmers to raise funds to retire or to invest in their business. But that could have been achieved by converting subsidies into a marketable interest bearing bond which is what many analysts advocated.