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EU targets 'sofa farmers'

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EU targets 'sofa farmers'
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Deciding who is and who is not a farmer. The answer would seem simple, but EU agriculture ministers are focused on that very issue, as they seek to draw up plans to reform Europe’s much criticised Common Agricultural Policy.

The new proposals aim to clarify who should and should not receive EU subsidy cash.

Belgian organic farmer Marc Degossely says lots of money is not going where it should be.

‘‘A property owner is someone who has invested their capital, and simply expects money back from that asset. A farmer is someone who lives off the land and is reliant on world prices, that go up or down. Because of that, they need help.’‘

Meeting in Luxembourg, EU ministers are expected to draw up a black list of so-called ‘sofa farmers’ in an effort to cut the number of subsidy claimants.

The chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, Paolo de Castro MEP, said the current payment system desperately needs to change.

‘‘What we’re talking about are golf courses, airports, even areas which have nothing to do with agriculture, like insurance companies. We need to clarify what should be financed by the CAP and allow member states the individual flexibility to decide what works,’‘ de Castro told euronews.

The latest attempt to reform the CAP – the EU’s costliest programme – is scheduled for 2014. But disagreements over farm subsidies between countries and spiralling costs threaten to delay that implementation.