Saturday, March 07, 2015

Complex picture on cutting payments to big farms

A common complaint about the CAP is that too high proportion of the subsidies go to already prosperous farmers. The counter argument is that these farmers are the most efficient and the most internationally competitive. It all comes down to what you think the CAP is for and there has always been confusion about the objectives and their relative preference ordering.

From this year all member states are obliged to apply a 5 per cent degressivity tax on payments over €150,000. Let us suppose that you are an East Anglian grain baron receiving €1m in subsidies. This means that you would appear to lose €42,500 of your subsidy, but then the 30 per cent greening subsidy is exempt, so the actual sum comes in at under €30,000 (obviously the amount received in pounds is sensitive to the pound-euro exchange rate). The amount lost would be significant but not devastating.

However, any member state or region can impose their own cap. This option has been chosen by all the devolved regions in the UK, but on a different basis in each case: It's your choice

Northern Ireland has imposed an absolute cap at €150,000. There are not many farms in Northern Ireland who would receive more than this. Wales has come up with a particularly complicated system, but again there are not that many farms in Wales who would qualify for relatively large payments. Scotland, where there are some large farms, has set the cap higher. Indeed, their €600,000 starting point is the highest notified by any EU country or region.

It's not difficult to work out the politics of this. Farmers in Northern Ireland who are Democratic Unionist or Sinn Fein supporters are unlikely to be affected. In Wales, the more Welsh-speaking parts of the country are unlikely to be hit (although other aspects of Welsh Assembly Government policy have been a source of complaint). In Scotland, the Scottish Nationalists do not want to upset any constituency, but the relatively small number of farmers likely to be affected are not significant in electoral terms.

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