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Millions in farm payments are going to a wealthy few - its time to support hard pressed local farmers instead, says Farron

March 4, 2009 4:16 PM

Figures uncovered by the Shadow Secretary of State for Defra Tim Farron MP have revealed that huge estate owners are claiming millions of pounds in EU payments at the expense of small family farms.

Mr Farron has called on Hilary Benn to push for a more equitable system after questions tabled in parliament by the Liberal Democrat spokesman revealed that four of the top ten CAP recipients were large estate holders who had claimed payments totalling almost £5million.

Despite the Sunday Time's Rich List estimating his fortune to be in excess of £120million in 2004, Sir Richard Sutton's Settled Estate was still able to claim over £1.25million for his 6,500 estate in Berkshire.

It is clear that these payments were claimed legitimately under the current system but Mr Farron has argued that these huge payments come at the expense of thousands of smaller farms who rely on their payments to keep their businesses running.

The Liberal Democrats are proposing reorganising payments to allow for more money to be transferred to smaller family farms which rely on these funds to remain in business.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"There's no question of these big landowners claiming any money fraudulently and in the case of the Natural Trust and The Co-Operative these payments were well deserved, but what it does show is how unbalanced the current system is.

"The single farm payments scheme ought to be supporting people such as hard-pressed hill farmers in Cumbria rather than wealthy landowners. Awarding such large sums of money to individuals who are already very rich goes against the central purpose of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"Unfortunately, this just goes to show how outdated the current CAP system has become. At a time when hill farmers across the country are struggling to get by on an average income of less than ten thousand pounds, how can anyone justify a system which pays landowners millions of pounds?

"There's an obvious need for a change in the system. We need a CAP which is modern, fairer and which supports small family farms. This means reorganising payments to ensure that targeted support is given to the hard-pressed farmers who genuinely need it."

1. Below are links to questions tabled in Parliament by Tim Farron MP and other Liberal Democrat colleagues.