A Greenpeace investigation has analysed the top 100 recipients of the Common Agricultural Policy’s single payment scheme – subsidies paid out based on the area of land owned.
It highlights that these top 100 recipients received a total of £87.9million in agricultural subsidies last year, of which £61.2million came from the single payment scheme – more than was paid to the bottom 55,119 recipients combined.
Among them are 19 receipients which feature on the Sunday Times Rich List and at least one in five are owned or controlled by members of British aristocratic families, including the Queen.
The list features the Duke of Northumberland’s Percy Farms and Lilburn Estates Farming Partnership, near Wooler, which is owned by Duncan Davidson, founder of housebuilder Persimmon.
The investigation comes after the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, promised that current levels of farm subsidy would continue until at least 2020, even once the UK leaves the EU.
The EU’s ‘direct’ subsidy system – known until last year as the single payment scheme – has attracted criticism because it largely rewards landowners for simply owning land, rather than paying farmers to invest in environmental or other ‘public-good’ measures.
However, it is also fair to say that the payments are contingent on certain rules and conditions, meaning that farmers and landowners need to demonstrate that they are keeping their land in ‘good agricultural and environmental condition’ and that they are complying with a number of specific legal requirements, known as statutory management requirements.
The recipients use their land in different ways – organisations such as the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts, for example, have used their subsidies for conservation work like managing habitats.
These same organisations are also calling for a post-Brexit policy which encourages landowners to do more for the environment and rewards those who are already farming in ways which benefit nature.