Auditors tell EU to limit payments to 'active farmers'

THE European Court of Auditors (ECA) has recommended that Single Payments should in future be limited to ‘active farmers’ and capped to ensure fairer distribution.

In a report that chimes with the aims of the European Commission’s CAP reform plans, the ECA found the under the current system, people ‘not – or only marginally - engaged in agricultural activity’ benefitted from the payment.

Based on these findings, the ECA recommended directing aid to ‘active’ farmers and ‘defining eligible land and agricultural activity more clearly in order to exclude activities that do not increase agricultural productivity’.

It also found that SPS ‘primarily benefits few but large beneficiaries’ and recommended that a ‘more balanced distribution of SPS aid between farmers be sought’ through capping or modulation.

Overall, however, it said the SPS has ‘generally’ contributed to the overall goals of the CAP.

NFU director of policy Martin Haworth said the NFU agreed with the recommendations on eligible land and targeting of payments at ‘active’ farmers.

“We also agree that payment entitlements should be held, activated and paid only to active farmers but recognise that this is very difficult to translate into concrete rules without increasing bureaucracy for farmers and paying agencies,” he said.

He said the NFU opposed capping as it ‘discriminates against increasing competiveness through scale’.

“We also want to see modulation phased out as soon as possible and replaced by a permanent transfer from the SPS to the rural development fund,” he said.

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