Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 22 April 2018

Calls new laws to prevent land speculation and dominant position of big players

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

EU states should reshape their land policies to provide better access to land to small, young and new farmers and tackle the dominant position of big players and do away with land speculations, according to MEPs.

Those, who farm a land, should have a pre-emptive right to buy it, Agriculture Committee MEPs insist.

They also want an EU-wide monitoring and information exchange on land prices and rents and call for a cap on payments for big farms.

MEPs are calling for Member states to redesign their land policies to give small and medium-sized local producers, new entrants and young and women farmers priority in purchasing and renting the farmland, including a pre-emptive right to buy it when offered for sale.

 EU structural policy should be used more to overcome structural barriers such as high land prices, for instance by providing special assistance to small and medium-sized producers and young and women farmers, MEP say.

They want the Commission to provide new instruments to facilitate farmers’ access to sustainable credits. Member states, for their part, should align financial conditions farmers need to comply with - when for instance asking for a loan to buy a land - to specificities of farming business.

MEPs also call on national governments to close any legislative loopholes making contract abuse possible and to ensure that national judiciaries are well equipped to protect all parties’ rights in case of irregularities with lease contracts.

Tackle land speculations...

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To ensure secure supply of food within the Union, the farmland should receive a special protection that would allow EU states to regulate its sale, use and lease, without prejudice to the four fundamental EU freedoms, says the draft resolution. The Commission should clarify, to this end, which market regulation measures are permitted, it adds.

The EU’s executive should publish a clear set of criteria on farmland transactions on capital markets and consider a moratorium on the ongoing land acquisition proceedings to assess whether national legislation on farmland trading complies with EU laws, say MEPs. They also suggest that member states use their tax laws to regulate land market and prevent speculative land transactions.

Further options that MEPs encourage member states to use include:

  • state licensing of land sales and leases,
  • rights of pre-emption,
  • obligations for tenants to engage in farming,
  • restrictions on the right of purchase by legal persons,
  • ceilings on the number of hectares that may be bought,
  • preference for farmers,
  • land banking, and
  • indexation of prices on the basis of farm incomes.

...and dominant position of big players

Land market policies should be designed in a way to help prevent the establishment of dominant positions on land markets, MEPs say. They encourage member states to make greater use of existing tools to cap and redistribute Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds.

EU states can, under current rules, reduce part of direct payments exceeding €150,000 by at least 5% and make 30% of direct payments payable on the first hectare, notes the approved text.

But the latter should be calculated per parent company, not per farm, to support more small and family farms and avoid paying more to the big ones, MEPs say. To this end, they want the Commission to publish information on parent companies receiving CAP subsidies.


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