The European Commission for Agriculture Phil Hogan is to explore the possibility of imposing compulsory caps on EU direct farm support payments as part of reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) that will come into effect from 2020 onwards.
The proposal is made in the 'The Future of Food and Farming' paper, which outlines the principles that will guide how the CAP will be changed after 2020.
Launching the White Paper, known as a ‘Communication’ paper on CAP reform in Brussels, Mr Hogan said that the reforms will also aim to ensure that farm payments are targeted to genuine farmers, focusing on those who are actively farming in order to earn their living.
The communication paper also said that the granting of income support for farmers will be conditional on the delivery of enhanced environmental and climate obligations by farmers.
The document says that a transition to a more sustainable agriculture with environmental and climate obligations will be put at the heart of Europe's agriculture policy.
It says there is a need to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers of CAP and proposes a greater level of subsidiary - with EU member states becoming much more responsible and accountable for devising and policing farm support schemes in order to reduce red tape.
Mr Hogan said he is aiming for a more simplified, targeted and balanced distribution of EU Farm payments.
Currently up to 20% of EU farmers receive 80% of farm payments.
Mr Hogan said he is exploring imposing a compulsory cap on direct payments, reducing support for larger farms, enhancing payments for small and medium sized farms, as well as measures to ensure that farm support is targeted to genuine farmers who are actively farming in ordered to earn a living.
There is to be a focus also on boosting farm restructuring, modernisation, and the uptake of new technologies.
Measures to improve the position of farmers in the food-price chain are also to be enhanced, and there is to be an effort to improve the tools for helping farmers to deal with price volatility and other risks.
Mr Hogan also underscored that when it comes to environmental care and climate action, any new CAP will need to reflect higher level of ambition and focus on climate objectives.
The paper says that the granting of income support to farmers will be conditional on their undertaking environmental and climate practices.
Mr Hogan said his reforms will deliver an agriculture policy with a strong commitment to deliver public goods and ecosystems services related to soil, water, biodiversity, air quality, climate action, and the provision of landscape amenities.
He said that the contribution of the CAP to these objectives after 2020 must be strategic and measurable.
There is no mention in the document published today about the size of the EU farm budget after 2020.
However, there are real fears that the EU farm budget, and EU farm supports, could have to be cut if EU member States refuse to increase their contributions to the EU budget after the UK leaves the European Union in 2019.