Most Europeans Want To Keep Subsidizing Farmers, Eurobarometer Poll Concludes

More than two-thirds polled say agriculture and rural development budget is reasonable or too small

Most Europeans say they want to maintain, or even increase, subsidies paid out by the European Union to their farmers, according to a recent official public opinion poll.

The Eurobarometer poll, conducted in all 27 EU nations, showed over two-thirds of people across the bloc say that the current budget for agriculture and rural development is either reasonable or too small.

At issue is the EU's controversial Common Agricultural Policy which eats up 40 percent of the bloc's annual €141 billion ($189 billion) budget, but is being reformed. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, wants to shrink the payouts when the policy is renegotiated in 2013.

While the issue of agricultural handouts leaves EU governments deeply divided, there was far more agreement in the opinion poll. The vast majority of the respondents, some 1,000 in each of the 27 nations, said they were in favor of the EU continuing to support farmer's incomes.

Looking ahead, 72 percent think the financial aid to EU farmers should increase or remain more or less the same over the next 10 years, a statistic which will greatly please the authorities in France, the biggest recipient of CAP funds.

Farmers represent some 3 percent of the EU's half a billion people. Many fear they couldn't survive without the handouts.

The countries whose citizens were most keen to see the farm subsidies increase were Greece with 74 percent in favor, Bulgaria with 73 percent and Estonia with 69 percent. And nine out of 10 people surveyed Europe-wide said that farming and rural areas remained a vital issue.

Asked what the priorities for food producers should be, the EU poll respondents chose quality (59 percent) over reasonable prices (49 percent).

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