EU farm subsidy reform criticised by MEPs

Leading UK Conservative and Green MEPs have criticised a deal to reform EU farm payments, saying it falls short of green targets and perpetuates big differences in farmers' income.

It allows 15% of environmental spending to be switched to direct farm support.

European Parliament negotiators say the deal reached with EU ministers is final. The parliament's agriculture committee will vote on it on Monday.

The big centre-right and centre-left blocs of MEPs support the package.

A top negotiator for the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, insisted that about one-third of payments would still go on environmental measures.

But he said he was unhappy about letting governments transfer some rural development funding to the direct farm payments budget.

"We are not very happy with the final result - it's a shame the Council [EU ministers] was so intransigent on that... but on its own it's not a good enough reason to reject the whole agreement," he said.

In addition, MEPs' calls to set an upper limit on farm subsidies were rejected, during the months of tough negotiations with the Council.

'Illogical' transfers

The direct payments to farmers - known as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - make up most of the EU's agriculture budget. Nearly 40% of total EU spending is allocated to agriculture.

Protection of wildlife and other environmental measures generally come under the rural development budget - called "pillar two". But the direct payments to farmers - "pillar one" - already dwarf such spending and Europe's big agricultural firms and landowners are major beneficiaries.

Under the new deal, EU member states can transfer 15% of rural development funding to pillar one. But that can reach 25% in countries where direct farm payments are below the EU average.

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