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Millions in farm payments going to wealthy few-Farron

December 7, 2009 12:00 AM

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 £120million in Single Farm Payments was awarded last year to just 387 recipients.

Despite the Sunday Time's Rich List estimating his fortune to be well over £100million in 2004, Sir Richard Sutton's Settled Estate was still able to claim over £930,000 for his 6,500 estate in Berkshire.

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.

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"Unfortunately, this just goes to show how outdated the current CAP system has become.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 big landowners millions of pounds in tax payers money?

"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."