Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law
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Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law

Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Michael N. Cardwell

Following the conclusion of the latest round of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2013, the Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law provides an up-to-date discussion of these reforms and the changing landscape in which the CAP now operates.
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Chapter 2: The direct payments regime: Delivering ‘a fair standard of living for the agricultural community’?

Michael N. Cardwell


The direct payments regime continues to attract the substantial majority of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) expenditure. Thus, in the 2013 Budget it accounted for commitment appropriations of approximately €40.9 billion out of a total for agriculture and rural development of approximately €58.9 billion. In addition, of that €40.9 billion, decoupled support claimed the lion’s share, with in the region of €30.6 billion destined for the Single Payment Scheme and €6.7 billion for the Single Area Payment Scheme. And this pattern is not to be materially disturbed under the new Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014–20. However, in light of the mount of funding allocated to direct payments, there is a continuing question as to whether they are effective in delivering the second Treaty objective of the CAP as now set out at Article 39(1)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), namely ensuring ‘a fair standard of living for the agricultural community’. And the question is the more legitimate in that the Single Payment Scheme when introduced was specifically characterized as ‘income support for farmers’,4 with an express statement also that its provision was ‘in particular with a view to ensuring a fair standard of living for the agricultural community’. Perhaps most significantly, in circles of the public consciousness the level of subsidy received by a number of landowners has been regarded as being in excess of an amount which might be considered ‘fair’.

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