Rich landowners pocketing subsidies

Combine harvesterSome of the wealthiest landowners in the UK are receiving millions of pounds in EU subsidies, an investigation has revealed.

The Panorama investigation showed that in 2010, 47 payments of over a million pounds were made to individuals and business - many already some of the richest in the country - across the UK under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
CAP payouts are rewarded for the amount of agricultural land a person owns, meaning often the richest and largest landowners receive the biggest payments, Panorama said. The situation is prompting calls for a new system of capping to end large payouts. The programme collected anonymised figures for 2010 for all four UK administrations.

In England, 512 recipients were given more than £250,000, 98 got more than £500,000 and 37 got at least a million pounds. Across the UK, 709 got more than £250,000, 133 were given at least £500,000 and 47 received more than a million pounds. The total number of payments for the whole of the UK in 2010 was 889.

Panorama said those benefiting from large subsidy payments include wealthy figures including members of the royal family. According to Panorama the Queen has received around £7 million in farming subsidies over the past decade and the Duke of Westminster has had around £6 million in that time.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "Like others with agricultural interests, we are in receipt of the Single Farm Payment."

Subsidy campaigner Jack Thurston, of, told Panorama: "These are very wealthy people and if we're in the business of handing out public money to farmers because they're poor, these are not the kind of people that we'd be handing that money to."

But National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall defended the system, saying: "I want money to go to active farmers who are producing food and that should matter whether you're producing it on two acres or two thousand acres. With the current system that we have with CAP, it's unavoidable."

European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos is hoping to end the big payouts. He told the programme: "I am very frustrated because this (means) millions of very honest farmers have to suffer because some speculators who use this opportunity with the Common Agricultural Policy became more rich only because they have some hectares."

The programme will be broadcast on Monday night at 8.30pm on BBC One.

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