• Germany's news in English

Farmers prepare for EU subsidy cuts

The Local · 19 Nov 2012, 08:39

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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
Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd