Global Policy Forum

Revealed: How Rich Landowners Are Making Millions from a Farm System That Fails Poor People

Make Trade Fair
January 22, 2004

Seven of Britain's richest men collectively earn over £2m (the subsidy calculations are based on average payments per hectare under arable crops, taking into account reductions under modulation. Actual payments are not disclosed by government agencies) a year in farm payouts from the European Union, according to new figures released by the international aid agency, Oxfam, today. In the month that the UK government will announce their decision on how to allocate future payments, Oxfam's research reveals how great a need there is for reform.

Under Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Dukes of Westminster, Marlborough and Bedford, Lords Illife and de Ramsey, the Earl of Leicester, and Sir Adrian Swire rake in up to £370,000 a year each for growing crops like wheat and barley. They also get payments for other types of farming and profit from rents inflated by the promise of subsidies. Meanwhile, poor farmers, at home and abroad, are going under.

Oxfam's Director of Campaigns, Adrian Lovett said: "These big farmers are the winners from a system that fails almost everyone else. UK taxpayers' money is being used to line the pockets of the rich, while small British farmers are struggling to get by. Worst of all, because the CAP encourages overproduction, farmers in some of the world's poorest countries are battling with cheap excess produce dumped on them by Europe. It is a scandal."

The precise subsidy figures are a well guarded government secret, but Oxfam has used a new method to estimate how much individual farmers are eligible to receive under the CAP. Comparable figures have not been published before.

Lovett: "The Common Agricultural Policy costs British taxpayers more than £3bn a year, not to mention the extra costs to the environment, and to consumers through higher prices. It is indefensible that the public are not told how their money is being spent. The government have promised to reform the CAP but until now they have failed to show sufficient leadership in Europe. It's time to change this and to make trade fair." Oxfam's report shows how payments in the cereals sector are determined by the size of the holding and how this rewards large farmers disproportionately. Initiatives such as organic cultivation, or the pursuit of more environmentally friendly methods, are not sufficiently rewarded by the current system.

Among Oxfam's recommendations are the following:

• a £20 000 cap on the level of subsidy an individual farmer can receive

• a redistribution of payments in favour of small farmers and the environment

• an end to those subsidies that encourage overproduction and lead to export dumping

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