UK Farm Subsidy Millionaires Double

DEFRA recently published its annual figures of EU payments (direct aids, rural development payments and market schemes) and the number of UK farming businesses receiving over a million pounds in EU grants and subsidies has now increased to 29, from 16 last year.

This has again led to renewed criticism of the system and how much tax-payers money goes to these ‘rich’ farmers and how the benefits are being given to few, large landowners and not to the smaller farmers, who are usually in more need of the funding. It is a vicious circle with the massive subsidies paid out to large landowners allowing them to expand further and buy more land and thus receive even more in subsidies.

Whilst the idea behind the subsidies and grants is to help the smaller, struggling farmers, most of the huge payouts go to charities and commercial corporations. For example both Nestle and the RSBP receiving more than a million pounds each in subsidies. The Queen received close to half a million pounds in farm aid for Sandringham Farms and NFU President, Peter Kendall, received just short of two hundred thousand pounds for his family farming business.

Around 200,000 UK farmers received payments totalling £3.3 billion in 2009, but 20,000 of these farmers received less than £300. This has also led to some calls for these so called ‘hobby farmers’ not to be allowed to claim subsidies. The Liberal Democrats have said they will make the minimum payout £300 and thus effectively abolish payments to hobby farmers. The money saved would be put into a fund for hill farming schemes.

There is also widespread anger at the number of inconsequential claims that waste time and money. In 2009 the Rural Payments Agency processed 67 claims worth less than a pound and 12 claims worth less than 10 pence, yet the average cost of dealing with a claim has been calculated at £1,743, making the current system crazy.

While there are now 29 farm subsidy millionaires in Britain, France has 174 and Germany 268. The EU Agriculture Commissioner has said he would be willing to discuss a limit on larger payments as part of any overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy.

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