With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for small farmers.
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Most of the farms in the EU are small, although the term includes a wide diversity of operations. Although small farms produce only a portion of the total EU agricultural output, their contribution in creating rural employment, supporting rural societies and landscapes, and ensuring that traditional and local production continues, makes them a cornerstone of European agriculture.
Because small farms are generally run by the family, who often consume what is produced themselves, they have few assets and few opportunities to innovate. They generally have very little bargaining power in the food supply chain. However, many small farmers are flexible enough to diversify their farm activities, or take on another job to increase their income.
As a small farmer, the EU recognises your important role and grants smallholdings a simplified scheme that cuts the administrative burden for accessing EU direct payments. This scheme is implemented in more than half of the EU countries, including those where small farms outnumber large ones. EU rural development policy also benefits small farmers by financing rural investments that improve the quality of life in the countryside, diversify rural economies, and offer services in remote areas that are important to the many elderly and female farmers among smallholders.
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- EPRS publication on ‘Small farms’, europarl.europa.eu/RegData/bibliotheque/stspotlight/2014/140794/LDM_STS(2014)140794_REV1_EN.pdf
- European Commission fiche on ‘The Small Farmers Scheme’, ec.europa.eu/agriculture/sites/agriculture/files/direct-support/direct-payments/docs/small-farmers-scheme_en.pdf
- European Commission brief on ‘What is a small farm?’, www.ec.europa.eu/agriculture/sites/agriculture/files/rural-area-economics/briefs/pdf/02_en.pdf