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Europe's agriculture and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – frequently asked questions

Rural Development

What is rural development?

The EU's Rural Development Policy seeks to maintain the vitality of the countryside through the balanced development of rural areas. It is an important part of the CAP.

Who runs rural development?

The Member countries choose measures suited to their specific needs and manage their programmes themselves. The EU pays part of the costs (co-financing).

How much does it cost?  Where does the money come from?

The budget for 2007-13 for all 27 Member States amounts to €96 billion (current prices).

The money comes from the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and part of the direct payments to farmers is now transferred to rural development through a mechanism called "modulation".

How is the money used?

Rural development funds can be used for both agricultural and non-agricultural activities, such as:

  • extending broadband coverage

  • helping small businesses

  • helping the food processing industry

  • extending childcare so that more mothers living in rural areas can return to work.

EU countries set their own priorities for rural development, but must spend at least 10% of their budget to boost the competitiveness of their farming and forestry sectors, at least 25% to improve the environment and the countryside and at least 10% to diversify the rural economy.

How do farmers benefit?

Farmers can get help and advice on farming, food processing and marketing.

Can rural development policy be adapted to different regions?

Each country formulates а national strategy for rural development but specific programmes can be designed and implemented at regional level.

How is Rural Development policy different from Regional policy?

Regional development policy provides help mainly to the most disadvantaged regions of the EU. Rural development policy applies to all regions in all countries.

Rural development policy today not only helps farmers but also people participating in the rural economy like forest owners, farm workers, small business, local non-governmental organisations, etc.

What is "Leader"?

'Leader' is the French acronym for 'Links between actions for the development of the rural economy'. As the name suggests, it is a means of improving the rural economy by stirring local communities into action rather than by imposing ready-made measures. Member States must spend at least 5% of their rural development budget on Leader projects.

Can rural development contribute to the environment?

Each rural development programme must include measures for the protection and enhancement of the EU's natural resources and landscapes in rural areas.

Rural development money is given in exchange and as compensation for actions that, not only protect and preserve the EU countryside, but also help fight climate change. Examples include:

  • preserving water quality

  • sustainable land management

  • planting trees to prevent erosion and floods.


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A picture of EU agriculture

Basic CAP facts

Why the CAP?

The cost of the CAP

CAP reforms

Fact or fiction?

Rural Development

Food prices

The CAP and the environment

The CAP and trade

The CAP and developing countries

Food quality and safety

Animal health and welfare


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Last update: 20-04-2011