Smallholders could lose out if planned reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy are approved.
Smallholders could lose out if planned reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy are approved. The changes would mean that those with holdings of less than five hectares would no longer be eligible for subsidies. One estimate is that, in England alone, around 16,000 claimants, or 15%, would lose out. More damaging to smallholders could be the application of a new definition of farming. Claimants will have to prove that ‘farming contributes substantially to the overall income’. Veteran smallholder and author Alan Beat said: “There are not many smallholders in the UK who could meet that requirement! Take my own case – if writing and education are excluded as suggested, our income from farming would probably fall short of ‘contributes substantially’. It’s details like this that could harm smallholders the most. “If support is denied to those farming less than five hectares, and those without ‘substantial’ farming income, the reforms will be devastatingly harmful to smallholding across the EU.” Defra says that most of the affected claimants do not farm for ‘business purposes’ and the changes would cut the cost of running the scheme. But when the overhaul began, the EC said it wanted to steer farmers away from intensive agriculture and towards more sustainable ways of managing the land. Country Smallholding editor Simon McEwan said: “The irony is that smallholding is exactly this. Numerous studies have shown it to be a more environmentally sustainable and effective way of producing food worldwide.” FULL REPORT: See our November issue for a special four-page report.