Dacian Ciolos, the European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, will address the 2012 Forum for the Future of Agriculture on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The main thrust of the package of reforms that he unveiled in October 2011 was to reduce income disparities among farmers in different member states, to put a limit on payouts to farmers, and to 'green' the CAP by linking payments to meeting environmental standards.
Farmers in the 15 countries that were members of the European Union before 2004 have received support payments of up to four times higher than those in countries that joined in or after 2004. Ciolos wants to tackle this disparity, but farm ministers from countries that receive low levels of payments have complained that the proposed reform would not close the gap sufficiently while ministers from countries that would see their payments reduced argue that the cut is too severe.
One of the most controversial aspects of the CAP is that farmers with large landholdings can receive public money because of the way that the land is farmed. The larger the holding, the bigger the owner's entitlement to subsidies. The Queen of England, for example, received more than €8 million in 2009, according to figures released by farmsubsidy.org, an organisation that campaigns for CAP reform.
Ciolos has proposed capping the maximum level of payment that a single farm can receive at €300,000.
This part of the reform has run into opposition from Germany, the UK and some central and eastern European member states. As the average farm in these countries is bigger than the EU average, they argue that the maximum payment level would hit them disproportionately hard. They warn that owners of big farms would split their holdings into smaller units to get round the rules.
The CAP reforms need to be agreed by the EU's farm ministers by the start of next year at the latest so that the changes can be in place ready for the next budgetary period, which starts in 2014.