European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski has stated that the trend of the EU’s farmland becoming increasingly concentrated must be addressed and that protections are needed to safeguard farmland from being snapped up by non-farmers.

Only 3% of the EU’s landowners control the majority of agricultural land and their share continues to rise, the Commissioner claimed when speaking to the media at the 2023 EU agricultural outlook conference in Brussels on Thursday.

He suggested that capping direct payments should be made mandatory and more supports being made available to smaller farmers through an enhanced CAP budget.

“I firmly believe that we need to strengthen support for small- and medium-sized family farms, counteracting excessive land concentration, while adopting mandatory capping, which involves reducing direct payments for the largest beneficiaries,” Commissioner Wojciechowski said.

“In addition, we need to protect agricultural land from being acquired for non-agricultural purposes.”

The Commissioner also suggested that high direct payments to large landowners and farmers cannot be allowed to continue due to the possibility of “big Ukrainian agro holdings” joining the EU in the future.

The Basic Income Support for Sustainability, opened to Ireland’s farmers this year, sees a maximum payment limit of €66,000, while the previous Basic Payment Scheme was capped at €150,000.

Future of CAP

The Commissioner outlined to the conference his vision for the future of CAP, the discussions around which are to kick off in January with a new “strategic dialogue on agriculture”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said that this dialogue will seek to find the middle ground on farming issues between farming organisations, processors, retailers, animal welfare groups and environmental organisations.

Commissioner Wojciechowski wants the new CAP to focus on four key areas: “security, stability, sustainability and solidarity”.

He explained that, in his view, food security, economic security for farmers, environmental sustainability and measures which show solidarity with the EU’s international need for food supplies must be accounted for in the CAP beyond 2027.

On the need to improve sustainability, the Commissioner wishes to see farmers being paid for voluntary agri-environmental schemes, rather than seeing increased regulations.

“I believe that new measures for farmers - under the CAP or other policies - should be based on financial incentives rather than legal compulsion,” he commented.

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