On Wednesday the European Union proposed new rules that attempt to cut its $75 billion a year in subsidies to farmers. Too bad the proposal doesn’t appear to have many adherents. According to the conservative Wall Street Journal, the debate “pits environmentalists and wealthy Europeans willing to pay higher food prices in exchange for more green space against consumers and farmers who argue the changes will limit Europe's ability to grow enough food.” France and developing countries in the EU, such as Poland, want as much farm aid as possible; they say the cuts undercut impoverished farmers trying to make headway in global markets. Under the proposal, a third of direct payments to farmers will depend on them following new rules that protect the environment. If implemented, seven percent of arable land will be declared "ecological focus areas, " and farmers will be obliged to grow at least three different crops at any one time.
Criticism also comes from the liberal Guardian in the UK: “The move away from historical payments to a flat-rate payment scheme is welcome; capping payments to the biggest farmers is only fair; more help to young farmers would refresh an industry; help for organic farmers is long overdue, and a basic requirement to put a proportion of farmland into environmental management is admirable.” Still, the paper adds, “The overall cut in funding for agri-environment schemes spells disaster.”
-- Reed McManus