News - Follow the money (to a European debate)
Do we really want to transfer million-euro subsidies to individual recipients in the agro-industry? The latest publication of who got what from the EU farmsubsidies in 2009 proved that the number of subsidy-millionaires has risen significantly. And right now is the perfect time to talk about it, because right now the future of this money-transfer is being debated in Europe.
Each year tax-payers send about €55 billion of to the farming industry, to rural areas and to price-correcting measures for food prices. It is called the Common Agricultural Policy, and it is one of the core businesses of the EU. The reform of this policy has to be finalised before the new budget period decision 2013, so major steps are prepared right now.
Do we, journalists, support the idea of an informed public debate? If yes, we must try to contribute by giving information about this kind of money to the public. And as the European public debate goes these years, we should network amongst each other and then address each our target group.
The current farmsubsidy beneficiaries would – logically – try to keep getting money, new players may try to get hold of money for various purposes. The first examples are popping up all over the place. Big landowners and chemical business unite to promote food security and the environment. The commissioner of the environments wants to “green” the policy. Green organisations argue for water protection, development organisations and liberalists against dumping of EU dairy products. And so on – a good auld political debate. Fine.
And even much more important to know, how the money is distributed now.
This week a team of journalists and computer programmers from many European countries met on the initiative of the team behind www.farmsubsidy.org. We ‘locked’ ourselves into a room in Brussels for almost two days. Loads of coffee, tea, sandwiches – and of course wireless internet. The common aim: To analyse the data to find stories for each our readers and viewers. And more importantly: to network in order to find the European or cross-border aspects of the material.
For a start we could present the annual list of top-recipients. Predictably dominated by sugar companies, who are still receiving large amounts because of the latest CAP reform on sugar.
We also have a preliminary list of farmsubsidy millionaires.
Then we have the usual list of anecdotes, including money to an accordion club in Sweden, a skating club in the Netherlands and a billiard club in Denmark. Did anyone mention farmsubsidies? For more details see the harvest festival press release by the Farmsubsidy.org team of May 4th.
So in other words: Back to the old saying of English language journalists: Follow the money. After all: € 55 million per year is worth journalistic coverage. And worth a public debate.
For an updated list of articles as they could be gathered have a look at the Watchdog Blog on Euobserver.com
Written by Brigitte Alfter