Farmers are likely to see the annual payment they receive from the government fall in coming years, UK farming minister Jim Paice said on Wednesday, adding he favoured its eventual abolition as global food prices rise.
The single farm payment is going to go down, farming minister Jim Paice said at the Oxford Farming Conference, referring to the expected outcome of negotiations about the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013.
The European Union's executive has proposed freezing agricultural spending at 2013 levels until 2020, after resisting pressure to cut to its farm budget to reduce costs and fund new EU priorities such as climate change.
Britain, Sweden and others had called for deep cuts to the CAP budget after 2013, but a majority of EU governments led by France want farm spending to remain at least stable after the policy is reformed in 2014.
A frozen budget would lead to a slow decline in its value in real terms, while available funds are expected to be more evenly spread as backing for farmers in the eastern EU are brought closer to the level of their counterparts in the western EU.
DAYS MAY BE NUMBERED
Certainly we are not alone in thinking the days of the single farm payment are numbered, Paice said, noting he supported a reduction rather than abolition in the current CAP talks, which cover the period until 2020.
Farmers have received direct payments from governments that are irrespective of their level of agricultural production, which is seen as a way to support the sector without violating World Trade Organization rules.
In the EU they are known as the single farm payment and can represent a significant proportion of many farmers' income.
Paice said rising global demand for food should translate into higher prices for food commodities, which should help enable farmers to rely increasingly on earning their incomes from the market.
He said single farm payments were very inefficient, going to all sorts of farmers irrespective of need.
Mary Creagh, agriculture and environment spokeswoman for the Labour Party, also supported a gradual transition away from direct payments to farmers.
We are talking about an evolution, not a revolution. In revolutions people lose their heads, she told the conference.
(editing by Jane Baird)