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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March 2005, 11:29 GMT
Oxfam calls for EU subsidy reform
Wheat, PA
Farm subsidies changed at the start of this year
The European farm subsidy system should undergo urgent reform because it is "skewed in favour of rich landowners", according to the charity Oxfam.

It emerged that the estates of some of Britain's richest men receive hundreds of thousands of pounds in subsidies.

The names of top subsidy recipients for 2003-04 came from data released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Oxfam's Phil Bloomer said: "While these people rake in millions, poor farmers at home and abroad are going under."

'Rotten system'

Details of who received what under the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were released under the Act by the government's Rural Payments Agency.

Aristocrats who received CAP subsidies included the Dukes of Westminster (448,000 in 2003-04), Marlborough (511,000) and Bedford (366,000), plus the Earl of Plymouth (459,000) and the Marquess of Cholmondely (306,000).

This information shows just how rotten our agricultural trade system is and paves the way for urgent and radical reform
Phil Bloomer
Oxfam

Phil Bloomer, head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair Campaign, said: "These figures confirm what we already suspected: the EU's agricultural subsidy scheme is skewed in favour of the richest landowners and biggest companies.

"While these people rake in millions, poor farmers at home and abroad are going under.

"This information shows just how rotten our agricultural trade system is and paves the way for urgent and radical reform.

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"We want the EU to change agricultural trade rules in a way that benefits the poorest farmers both at home and abroad.

"The immediate elimination of export subsidies and a radical overhaul of the sugar regime would be a good place to start."

'Old system'

The Foreign Policy Centre, which also requested the CAP figures, said it had discovered that 127m went to sugar refiner Tate and Lyle.

SUBSIDY RECIPIENTS:
Duke of Westminster - 448,000
Duke of Marlborough - 511,000
Duke of Bedford - 366,000
Earl of Plymouth - 459,000
Marquess of Cholmondely - 306,000

The FPC's Jack Thurston, who used to be a special adviser to Labour MP Nick Brown when he was agriculture minister, has analysed the payments.

"For too long people have been misled to believe that farm subsidies are about protecting small and family farms," he said.

"This data shows conclusively that most of the EU's CAP payments goes to large agribusiness and wealthy landowners."

However, the National Farmers' Union said the information related to an old system which has since been abolished and replaced with new non-production based payments.

Reality check

Tim Bennett, the NFU's president, said: "Now in 2005 farmers receive support for helping to manage the countryside.

"All payments from now on are subject to tough environmental conditions. The public get real value for money.

"Farmers will receive 1.7 billion, which equates to only 0.14% of total public spending, in return for managing 75% of land in England."

Mr Bennett said the 'subsidy rich list' did not reflect the reality for many farmers.

"The average net annual earnings for farmers in the years for this information was only 13,000. The total is a fraction of total public spending of 1,200 billion."

Thriving

Mr Bennett said the NFU is set to launch an environmental campaign with a survey which would show that 74% of people support giving farmers public money in return for managing the countryside.

The figures suggest that the payments were made to more than 100,000 organisations in England in 2004.

Only 17,000 farms received payments worth less than 1,000, while 2,269 received more than 100,000 and 304 farms received more than 250,000.

The Rural Payments Agency also handed out 53 payments worth more than 500,000 to farms and farm-related businesses.

A spokesman said that help through the CAP was not all financial, adding that the agency ensured payments went only to those who were eligible.

European Commission agriculture spokesman Michael Mann said: "There is no doubt that the CAP does protect small family farms because small family farms continue to exist and thrive in the EU."

A spokesman for the Department for Food and Rural Affairs said that under the old system there were around 12 schemes related to the amount of food produced.

The new single payment scheme will be phased in gradually to 2012. There was also an environmental stewardship scheme, he added.


SEE ALSO:
EU urged to reform its spending
09 Mar 05 |  UK Politics
The return of the countryside
01 Sep 04 |  Science/Nature


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