The face of farming in Europe will begin to change from next year.
From January 1, the subsidies the EU pays to farmers will no longer be linked to the amount of food they produce. Rather the new so-called Single Payment Scheme should allow farmers to produce only what the market needs. The handouts will also be linked with respect for the environment, food safety and animal welfare standards. But just 10 countries will start next year. Britain is among the first swathe with France phasing in the new payments along with four others in 2006. By 2009 at the latest all the EU states should have signed up to the new scheme. The Common Agriculture Policy – or CAP – was set up against a backdrop of food shortages and rations following World War Two. Its aim was to increase productivity and maintain regular food supplies. But by the early 1980s misuse of the CAP had led to Europe’s infamous wine lakes and butter mountains. The new scheme applies to the main market sectors and tobacco, olive oil and cotton will be added in 2006.