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Making farming fairer and greener - 04/07/2013

Wheat © iStockphoto

Agreement reached on changes to EU agricultural policy, starting 2014 – support for sustainable farming, more help for new farmers, and a more even distribution of funding between EU countries.

The EU’s farm policy, known as the common agricultural policy, is designed to make sure farmers have a decent standard of living and Europeans have enough to eat – at affordable prices.

The policy works by:

  • supporting farmers' incomes – provided they meet strict standards on food safety, environmental protection and animal health and welfare. (This accounts for 70% of EU farm-support budget.).
  • stabilising the market when farming is hit by bad weather or disease (around 10% of farm-support spending).
  • funding modernisation of farms to make them more competitive (20% of EU farm-support, topped up with national funding).

Some of the rules will change from January 2014 following the agreement. For example, to qualify for income support, farmers will have to adopt sustainable practices to promote soil quality, biodiversity, crop diversification and healthy grassland.

The reform will also make the distribution of funding fairer: no EU country should receive less than 75% of the EU average by 2019.

Politicians have also agreed on changes that make starting out easier for young farmers. At present, 30% of Europe’s 12 million farmers are over 65, while only 6% are under 35.

In addition to existing help, new farmers will receive an extra 25% in income support for the first five years.

New rules will also strengthen farmers' negotiating position in certain sectors by giving professional organisations the power to settle sales agreements on their behalf.

The new rules will come into force in January 2014. A few last points will be settled in negotiations on the EU’s 2014-2020 budget at large.

There are roughly 12 million full-time farmers in the EU. Together, the agriculture and agri-food sector account for 6% of EU GDP and provide 46 million jobs.

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