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EU proposes slimmer post-Brexit agricultural subsidy programme

Brussels – The European Commission has presented its plans for 365 billion euros (426.6 billion dollars) worth of agricultural subsidies under the 2021-2027 EU budget, cutting back on the bloc's biggest spending pot to take account of Brexit.

The European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will make up a third of spending in the next long-term budget, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said Friday.

It is one of two key areas in which the commission is proposing significant cuts to make up for the departure of Britain – a net budget contributor – from the EU next year.

The proposals have already come under fire from a bloc of six countries with major agricultural sectors, including France, Greece and Spain.

Environmental groups Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) meanwhile condemned the plans as providing inadequate protection for the environment.

5-per-cent cut

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan touted a more "targeted" approach in the revised policy, while arguing that farmers' income "needs to be supported to guarantee food security for our people."

The plans will cut agricultural spending by 5 per cent compared to the current budget framework, according to the commission, although the European Parliament has calculated a 15-per-cent cut.

German farmers, for example, should receive around 41 billion euros between 2021 and 2027, compared to 44.1 billion euros under the current seven-year budget.

EU budget plans must be agreed with the bloc's governments and lawmakers, in what are traditionally lengthy and acrimonious negotiations.

Smaller farms will benifit

A first blast came on Thursday, even before the Commission presented the plan, with a joint statement from Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain "strongly regretting" the planned cuts and calling for the current budget to be maintained.

The CAP "contributes to making the European Union one of the world's main agricultural powers by guaranteeing food security with products benefiting from the highest quality, sanitary and environmental standards," the six said.

Greenpeace said that the plan "fails specifically to address the environmental and health impacts of Europe's intensive meat and dairy sector."

Animal farming was responsible for 12 to 17 per cent of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions as well as growing antibiotics resistance, the organization argued.

"Missed opportunity"

The WWF said it was "dismayed that hardly any of its asks... have materialized in the Commission's proposal."

The plan was a missed opportunity to link subsidies to more sustainable farming, the group said.

The EU's executive wants to streamline agricultural spending to benefit smaller farms and young farmers in particular, while also prioritizing environmentally friendly projects.

Direct payments should be capped between 60,000 and 100,000 euros per farm, according to the commission, while it expects 40 per cent of the agricultural budget to contribute to climate action.

But the WWF argued that the new plans lacked binding obligations on member states to ensure environmental results and did not provide enough incentives to farmers who actively contribute to achieving environmental objectives.

EU budget: the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020