Farmers worry about EU plans to link subsidies with sustainable output

The European Union pays $50 billion annually in agriculture grants - an amount which will reduce by $5 billion after Brexit. As green campaigners push for environmental reform, farmers are concerned about increasing pressure in a tough market.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Both the farmers and environmental campaigners agree European agriculture has become too dependent on direct EU subsidy.

One of the issues which cropped up with the United Kingdom's impending exit from the European Union was the impact on the bloc's agricultural sector. But change is already afoot as the EU plans to reform the sector by linking agricultural subsidies to environment-friendly farming practices.

The EU pays 38 percent of its annual budget in direct subsidies to farmers. Britain’s contribution amounts to nearly five billion dollars a year. 

Green groups say the current subsidies lean heavily towards big farms, ignoring smaller operators who produce sustainable produce.

"The policy instruments that exist at the moment are supporting large-scale industrial agriculture - around 80 percent of direct subsidies are going to 20 percent of farmers, and those are the big ones." said Stanka Becheva, food and agriculture campaigner.

Yet, many farmers say these new reform conditions are not entirely fair as they come at a difficult time with 10 percent of dairy farmers in Belgium going out of business every year, and those hanging on to their farms losing money.

TRT World’s Elena Casas has more from Brussels.