Proposed European Union requirements that would tie farmer payments to environmental targets should have exemptions for small farms and operations that already use similar ecological practices, a parliament committee said.
Farms smaller than 10 hectares (25 acres) should be exempt from the EU’s so-called greening plans, and rules should be relaxed for operations up to 30 hectares, the European Parliament’s agriculture committee said, according to a statement yesterday on its website. Farms already participating in national or regional environmental programs may also be exempt, as long as those programs have environmental effects similar to the greening rules, it said.
The EU’s plan would make 30 percent of budgets for direct payments contingent on environmental measures including crop diversification and maintaining permanent pastures or grassland areas. The U.K.’s parliament committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in June EU plans threatened to reduce food security by taking farmland out of production.
Greening plans should be “possible for every farmer in the EU, not just those in countries that can afford to fund it under rural development programs,” Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, rapporteur for direct payments and rural development regulations, said in the statement. “This greening is clearly subject to EU rules, and now needs to be paid for by real EU money for a public good.”
The agriculture committee also endorsed proposals that would cap direct payments to any one farm at 300,000 euros ($400,000) and lower payments by 70 percent for those receiving between 250,000 euros and 300,000 euros. Payments to farms making between 200,000 euros and 250,000 euros would be lowered by 40 percent and farms making 150,000 euros to 200,000 euros would be cut by 20 percent, according to the statement.
Direct payments should go only to active farmers, and other groups, such as airports and sports clubs, should be automatically excluded from receiving funding unless they can prove that farming makes up a “substantial share of their income,” the committee said.
Funding should be distributed more evenly among the EU’s 27 member countries so that no one nation receives less than 65 percent of average payments in the bloc, the committee said.
Committee endorsements should be adopted by the full parliament before negotiations begin with member countries. A plenary vote is provisionally scheduled for March.