The distribution of European agricultural subsidies is once again under discussion. Mainly large companies benefit from them while small farmers often seem to miss out. Spanish companies from various sectors are included in the top 50 subsidy recipients.
Biggest polluters receive most European subsidies
A preliminary document of the European Parliament lists the main beneficiaries of agricultural and livestock subsidies from 2018 and 2019. Environmental groups and small farmers are not happy. The list confirms the classic idea that the lion’s share of European funding is received by just a few.
The list of prominent Spanish companies includes Vega Mayor SL, of the Florette Group (€7.5million between 2018 and 2019). One of the largest cheese companies in Spain, the Entrepinares Group, (€5.6million) also features. Freixenet, the world leader in cava, received a CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) grant of €2.2million in 2018. Bodegas Protos is also in the top 50 beneficiaries (€2.6million in 2018 and €3.2million in 2019).
Furthermore, the list includes companies engaged in intensive livestock production, such as Campofrío (€5.9million in 2019) or Faccsa (€3.3million in 2019). In addition, industrial agricultural cooperatives such as Primaflor (€5.6million in 2018) and Agroiris (€4.6million in 2018 and €4.4million in 2019). It also includes food distributors, for example, Mercadona, (€1.8million in 2018) and Telefónica (€2.6million in 2019).
Intensive and industrial agriculture and cattle breeding
‘These data show the subsidies benefit an intensive and industrial agriculture and livestock model,’ says Andrés Muñoz, head of Food Sovereignty at the organisation ‘Amigos de la Tierra’, The organisation falls under the platform ‘Por otra PAC’ (For a Different CAP).
Many other grant recipients indirectly contribute their activities to the rapid emergence of macro-farms. This is through the production of feed for farm animals. The list also includes Compañía Canaria de Piensos (€7.2million in 2018), Piensos del Atlántico (€3.8million in 2018), Graneros de Tenerife SL (€7.1million in 2018) and Cereales Archipiélago SL (€6.8million between 2018 and 2019).
Large ecological footprint
‘Most of these cattle feed producers have a large carbon footprint. This is due in addition to the grains, many feeds contain soybeans brought in from America. These producers supply feed for intensive livestock farming’, explains Inmaculada Lozano, farmer and spokesperson for the Stop Industrial Livestock Farming platform. She continues: ‘This type of livestock farming has a direct impact on the environment, especially in pig farming, where huge amounts of water are required for breeding. Moreover, the groundwater is contaminated by the filtrate from slurry, a mixture of excrement and urine’.
These huge subsidies to the big companies in the food sector not only contribute to the misuse of the land but also lead to inequalities in the market. This is denounced by UPA, the Union of Smallholders and Livestock Farmers. UPA argues that large producers can lower their prices in the market due to this subsidy and therefore have a competitive advantage over the small farmers. We cannot continue to see large companies being the main beneficiaries of the CAP while small farmers and ranchers are left empty-handed,” said UPA Secretary-General Lorenzo Ramos.
New criteria for a modern CAP
As Europe negotiates the criteria for the new CAP 2023-2027, environmentalists and small farmers alike feel it is time to put this long-standing state of affairs to rights. At a time when the climate is so bad, stricter environmental criteria should be one of the priorities for the new CAP. Furthermore, the companies eligible for subsidies should respect the rights of their workers. The new CAP should include the environment, job security, food health and the fight against depopulation among its criteria.
Fewer farmers because of CAP
In the last ten years, Europe has lost a quarter of its farmers due to the CAP funding model. Because the system is based on acreage, large landowners and large companies are favoured. Many of them work in ways that are harmful to health, the countryside and the climate. If we really want a green and fair CAP, it means changing the rules so that the money goes to small agro-ecological farms,’ says Florent Marcellesi, co-spokesperson of the Spanish Green Party EQUO and former Member of the European Parliament.
According to UPA, only small family farms can guarantee that they produce with respect for labour rights and preserve rural ecosystems. No-one cares about the environment more than the small farmer. It is these farmers who work in the fields each day to help keep the countryside healthy. Industrialisation is only about ‘mass-production’ without using local labour and without contributing to the rural economy,” Ramos says. Environmental and occupational safety, food hygiene and the fight against depopulation. These must be the pillars of the next CAP,’ he says