• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Farmers prepare for EU subsidy cuts

The Local · 19 Nov 2012, 08:39

Published: 19 Nov 2012 08:39 GMT+01:00

On a vast farm in former Communist East Germany, payments from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy are seen as a necessary evil to keep the wolf from the door but cause huge administrative headaches.

"It's a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of effort to file these demands every year," complains Hans-Dieter Gabel, buried under paperwork in his office on the farm in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in north-eastern Germany.

"I'm very critical" of the CAP, said Gabel, president of the enormous Torney agricultural collective, a hangover from Communist times, where he has toiled for more than 30 years.

Despite receiving some €500,000 per year from the policy, he said he would "rather have no money from Brussels," which he sees as sprawling and out-of-touch administration 900 kilometres away.

"It's a radical idea but then we would have no obligations and no control over us," the 56-year-old farmer said.

Nevertheless, on a tour of the barn with 70 calves ready to be slaughtered, the cows grazing in the fields and the silos packed with barley, Gabel admits that the cash is "a safety net" for his firm and his staff.

The CAP, which will be one of the main battlegrounds at an EU summit later this week, was designed to enable farms to survive poor harvests, spikes in raw material costs or plunges in agricultural prices.

As Europe's top economy, Germany gives most to the CAP - paying €8.7 billion annually into the pot - but it is also the third-largest recipient (behind France and Spain), with its farmers receiving €5.6 billion.

However, the difference of €3.1 billion makes Germany by far the biggest net contributor to the CAP pot, shelling out more than twice as much as Britain, one of the main opponents of the fund.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner has defended the CAP, saying it "provides financial means for the protection of the environment, animal welfare and consumer standards in Europe."

But Gabel took a slightly different view.

"Everyone says that farmers are the winners from the CAP but it's not true. The real winners are the consumers because without the CAP we could not produce goods so cheaply," he said.

Agriculture in Germany continues to bear the hallmarks of its previous division, with small and mainly family-operated farms in the west and south, and enormous collectives in the east.

Gabel's Torney collective, named after a brook that runs through the village of Pripsleben, is a perfect example, with 1,300 hectares of corn, rapeseed, barley, potatoes and beetroot, plus 300 hectares of pasture.

In addition, Gabel farms hundreds of cows, calves and pigs for meat, sold locally throughout the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the form of salamis, hams and cutlets.

After what promises to be long and painful negotiations on the budget in Brussels, Gabel's half-million-euro annual support is likely to be slashed, said Frank Offermann, an agricultural expert from Germany's Thünen Institute.

Story continues below…

While some EU countries want the budget slashed, others want the funds redistributed. "In either case, the transfers to German agriculture will diminish," said Offermann.

If a proposed cap on the handouts per farm is introduced, "it will cost us €200,000," said Gabel.

But he is not without a more modern plan B. Rather than wrestling with the red tape needed for CAP handouts, he is busy renting out the roofs of his barns for solar panels and his fields for wind energy turbines.

AFP/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

09:09 November 19, 2012 by wethepeople2012
"It's a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of effort to file these demands every year,"

That's the point! If it was too easy, then everyone would continue kicking the can down the road and not look for alternatives.

Why do you think Germans dread going to the German unemployment office? If it was such a pleasant experience and the employees were all so full of smiles-then everyone would stay on unemployment!
12:26 November 19, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Do I see child labour being used in the picture? Shame on whoever this farmer is.
13:58 November 19, 2012 by michael4096
She is far too clean to be child labour in a spud field
19:04 November 19, 2012 by raandy
There is a place here in Berli where you and family can go and pick potatoes as they dig them. kids love it.

Subsidy cuts will result in higher meat and vegetable prices.
Today's headlines
Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
File photo: DPA

When a man swimming naked in a Bavarian lake felt a strange pain in his nether regions, he looked up to see a fisherman on the shore. "Don’t pull!" he shouted.

Study finds rival Rhineland beers 'actually taste the same'
Left: Altbier. Right: Kölsch. Or can you even tell? Photos: DPA.

Cologne and Düsseldorf have a long established rivalry, not least over who has the better home brew. So the results of a new study might be more than they can swallow.

Eastern Europe pushes Germany for joint EU army
Angela Merkel (l), Beata Szydlo and Victor Orban. Photo: DPA

Eastern EU countries on Friday pushed for the bloc to create a joint army as they met with Germany for talks on sketching Europe's post-Brexit future.

Merkel’s party mate wants to get rid of all Karl Marx streets
Karl Marx and one of the roadways in Berlin named for him. Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Nicor

Hundreds of streets are named after the founder of communism, but this conservative politician wants to give Marx the boot.

State elections
6 reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Photo: DPA

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's "poor but sexy" capital city.

Upstarts RB Leipzig plan to go right to top of Bundesliga
RB Leipzig players celebrate scoring against Dynamo Dresden. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig make their Bundesliga debut on Sunday, but the East German outfit, sponsored by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, are already far from popular in Germany's top-flight.

Poland criticizes Germany’s 'self-serving' foreign policy
Witold Waszczykowski. Photo: DPA

The Polish foreign minister has said that Germany all too often follows its own interests at the expense of its partners, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to visit Warsaw.

Vast majority of Germans in favour of burqa ban: poll
Women wearing niqab veils in Saudi Arabia. Photo: DPA.

A survey found that the vast majority of respondents were in favour of Germany passing a ban on the full-body veil sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Czech police detain driver for harassing Merkel's motorcade
Angela Merkel. File photo: DPA

Czech police arrested a man on Thursday for attempting to drive into the motorcade of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Prague, they said.

Teacher convicted for holding kids back after class
Photo: DPA

A music teacher from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has been found guilty of "holding people against their will" after he made some naughty stay kids back after class.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,614
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd