An audit into income support measures designed to shore up agricultural stability across the EU has found limited evidence of their effectiveness.
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) examined the EU’s range of measures helping maintain healthy income levels for the bloc’s 6.4 million farmers in the face of falling prices and stock losses, with the goal of establishing whether agricultural stability instruments fulfil their stated purpose. In total, EU farmers receive €41bn per year through stability processes outlined in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with direct payments from the EU comprising on average around 25% of farm incomes.
In their investigation, the auditors focused particularly on the EU’s efforts to support farmers insuring their income against production losses and volatile prices; as well as the exceptional measures introduced by EU authorities in 2014 to protect the produce sector after Russia imposed agrifood sanctions on the EU and its allies. Between 2014 and 2018, the EU released €513m in support for fruit and vegetable producers to compensate for losses incurred through the Russian sanctions – but due to a lack of objective parameters, 61% of this support was directed to apple producers, despite the fact that apple exports did not see a major impact from the sanctions.
In terms of the €2.6bn the EU sets aside to help farmers insure against losses and price fluctuations, meanwhile, the auditors found that fewer than 10% of the farmers who do insure make use of the EU funding available; while many farmers do not consider taking risk mitigation measures, as they are aware that they will be eligible for public aid in the event of a crisis. Samo Jereb, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, said: “There is currently limited evidence of the EU added value of this support for stabilising farmers’ income. Measures should be further targeted so that they can be used by those farmers which need them most and in a way that does not conflict with the development of a more preventive and resilient EU agriculture.”