Friday, July 17, 2009

European farm subsidies used for broader rural development

This story in today's New York Times explains that farm subsidies in the European Union support enterprises that are not strictly agricultural, much to the dismay of some farmers and politicians there. As in the U.S., European farm subsidies also flow to many wealthy persons who happen to own rural and/or agricultural land, even if it is not farmed. Here's the story's lede:

Arids Roma is a gritty Catalan construction company in the northeast of Spain that paves highways and churns out dusty gray mountains of gravel from several sprawling factories.

It is also a beneficiary of €1.59 million in farm subsidies from the European Union, which last year doled out more than €50 billion, $71 billion, from the largest agricultural aid program in the world, one that provides financing to a wide variety of recipients beyond the farmers who plow the soil — German gummy bear manufacturers, luxury cruise ship caterers and wealthy landowners ranging from Queen Elizabeth II of England to Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Arids spreads gravel instead of seeds, but it received a farm subsidy for contributing to rural development — money well spent, according to the Catalan regional government, which requested the payment and then distributed it to the company.

As a spokeswoman for the Catalan government explains, “Paved roads connecting the villages aid the mobility of tractors.”

Elsewhere in the article, the theme of rural development is echoed in the comments of an EU spokesman who explains: “Rural development is not just about farms, it is also about environmental projects and boosting the rural economy ... So it is perfectly O.K. that nonagricultural businesses get money for a project that generates jobs and prosperity in rural areas.” I suspect that many rural residents in Europe disagree--not with the mission of rural development, but that the best way to achieve it is to channel monies through agri-business interests and the pockets of European monarchs.

I wonder what grass roots rural development efforts are underway in Europe. Here's a link to one rural community development program in the U.S. The USDA makes many grants available for community development purposes.

1 comment:

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