10 May: Sugar is sweeter

Who wants to be a farm subsidy millionaire? Quite a few, it turns out.

According to data released by EU governments – and crunched by our sister organisation FarmSubsidy.org – the number of farmers and food companies who received individual payments of more than €1m this year rose by more than 20 percent on the previous year.

Count ’em up: Germany has 268 millionaire recipients, while France has 174 subsidy millionaires, including several banana-producing companies in French overseas territories. Altogether France’s subsidy millionaires took over €1bn in 2009. Besides the sugar refiners, big payouts went to dairy processors and trading companies, as the EU increased dairy export subsidies in 2009.

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15 April: Ciolos wants to hear from YOU!

Better cancel that early summer holiday. There are just two months to contribute to the European Commission’s latest public debate on the future of the CAP.
The EU’s agriculture commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, launched the debate on Monday, unveiling an exciting new website where “stakeholders” are encouraged to share their thoughts about structure and objectives of the CAP after 2012. But hurry: the website will be open for contributions until June 2010.
“The Common Agricultural Policy is not just a matter for experts,” Ciolos said. “It’s a policy for all Europeans.” Quite so, one was tempted to add. We’re paying for it.
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22 March: Hey, big spender

Greece’s woe continues.

On Tuesday last week, the European Commission said 20 member states must pay back a total of €346.5 million in “unduly spent” farm subsidies. Member states failed to apply proper financial controls and permitted ineligible expenditures.

Greece and Poland account for more than half that sum.

Cash-strapped Athens must pay back €132.6 million – most of which went to cotton farmers who were “overshooting” quotas. Brussels also identified “severe and persistent weaknesses” in Greece’s rural development measures.

Meanwhile, the commission will seek to claw back €92 million from Poland for “acceptance of ineligible land for payments” and “insufficient” checks in regions with high error rates.

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12 March: Sarko steals the headlines

Quite a week for Nicolas Sarkozy, then.

After skipping the opening ceremony of the Salon d’Agriculture, the French president wrapped up the show by announcing that France is ready to accept farm budget cuts – but only if EU farmers are given more protection against imports.

Speaking at a debate on Saturday, Sarkozy said Paris would be “supple” about the budget but “rigid” in its demand that agricultural imports be subject to the same standards of production as those adhered to by EU farmers.

“I am ready to accept reducing the share of agricultural spending in the EU budget provided that we use community preference,” Sarkozy said, a reference to the high standard of environmental rules followed by EU producers

This, then, indicates a significant shift in thinking.

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5 March: The circus comes to town

The world’s largest food and farm show, France’s Salon d’Agriculture, is taking place in Paris this week.

Europe’s new agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos cut the ribbon — a first for an EU commissioner — after President Nicolas Sarkozy broke with tradition and skipped the opening ceremony. The French premier will wrap up proceedings on Sunday instead.

The event comes after a year in which French farming has suffered its worst crisis in decades. According to Reuters, it is a “chance for Europe’s top agricultural producer to convince the visiting public and foreign officials it is worth safeguarding a sector undermined by declining revenues.”

Target number one is Commissioner Ciolos.

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