In view of the European elections, we host a few guest posts originally published by EUfactcheck , an initiative set up by the European Journalism Training Association to foster fact-based debate on European issues. This post was written by Alissa Verwoerd and Tess Marteijn from the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands).
The current agricultural policy of the EU runs until 2020. The discussions about this policy for 2021 have therefore started. Following this discussion, Menno Bentveld, a reporter at the Dutch national radio station NPO Radio 1 called Bas Eickhout, MEP of GroenLinks, the Dutch Green party. Eickhout claimed that 80 percent of the European agricultural funds goes to the 20 percent largest farmers.
This claim is also addressed in the electoral manifesto of GroenLinks . They call it absurd that a small number of large farms receive such a large part of the European agricultural budget. GroenLinks believes that the EU should give more support to farmers who want to make their business more sustainable, who invest in animal welfare, or who expand their business with farmers’ camping sites, heritage shops, care farms and other forms of rural development. In short, Bas Eickhout and GroenLinks stress the fact that they think the distribution of the agricultural money is unfair.
The EU’s agricultural budget
The criteria for the distribution of the agricultural budget are laid down in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), established in 1958 with the foundation of the European Economic Community. The purpose of the CAP at that time was to provide Europe with its own food supply and to import as little as possible. In 2018, almost 38 percent of the European Union budget went to agriculture. The CAP nowadays focuses on income support for farmers, market regulation and rural development.
In his statement, Bas Eickhout talked about European agricultural money. However, a large part of the agricultural funds of the EU do not go directly to the farmers, so it is better to focus on the income support that farmers receive from the EU. The European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) is responsible for this. Every farmer in the European Union receives a subsidy of 260 euros per hectare of agricultural land if he or she meets all environmental and sustainability requirements. If farmers do something about the biodiversity on their farm, this will be supplemented by 115 euros in greening premium per hectare. In addition, farmers under the age of 41 receive an additional financial support of 50 euros per hectare per year. A farmer under 41 therefore receives 425 euros per hectare per year if he meets all the EU’s requirements.
Young farmers and big farmers
The more land a farmer owns, the more subsidy he or she receives. The European Commission shows in its 2018 statistical factsheet how income support for farmers was divided during the previous year. There were 6.5 million farmers who were entitled to agricultural money from the CAP. Together they received more than 41 billion euros.
As farmers receive an amount per hectare, larger farms receive more money. The following table shows that 24 percent of the farmers received more than 5000 euros. This is a total of 1.6 million farmers. These farmers together received almost 85 percent of all European agricultural subsidy. The statistical factsheet does not specificy the share of farmers corresponding to 80 percent of the subsidies, but it states that 74.4 percent of the subsidies go to 14.6 percent of all farmers receiving European agricultural support.
Distribution of income support for farmers in 2017 (source: European Commission)
| Income support per farmer (€)
| Farmers (%)
| Total income support (€)
| Income support (%)
| > 5000
When we level between 84,7 and 74,4 percent, we can conclude that 20 percent of the farmers receive approximately 80 percent of the agricultural support money. Assuming that Bas Eickhout refers to income support for farmers when talking about agricultural support, we can regard his statement as true.