Green farm subsidy move criticised

Combine harvesterEvery household spends £400 each year to subsidise farmers

Wildlife groups have accused the government of caving in to the big farmers over planned changes to farm subsidies in England.

The government proposed increasing the proportion of farm payments transferred to protecting wildlife from 9% to 15%.

But it backed it down to 12% after farmers said this was not fair.

The government said it would be spending a bigger share on the environment despite a smaller overall budget for subsidies.

Farmers get £50bn of taxpayers’ money a year based mainly on the amount of land they own, and the EU set out this year to ensure that they earned their grants by protecting the countryside.

Little changed as the plans were fought successfully by farmers across Europe.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had said he wanted to make a difference by transferring 15% of grants away from direct payments for farmers and into protecting wildlife.

‘Real benefits’

The National Farmers Union said most European counterparts were transferring less.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said Prime Minister David Cameron, fearful of losing rural votes, lowered England’s wildlife share as well.

Farmers were relieved but wildlife groups said a crucial chance to bring birds back to the countryside had been missed.

Mr Paterson said “England’s £15bn Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must deliver real benefits to farming, rural businesses, the countryside and the taxpayer.

“Today’s decision will see £3.5bn invested in the environment and rural development schemes over the next seven years.

“This is a significant change in the way we allocate CAP money and even with a smaller overall CAP budget, the government will be spending a bigger share of the budget on the environment than before.”

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