Lithuania urges final push on EU farm reform

Lithuania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, on Monday urged a final push on a major reform of the bloc's generous farm subsidy programme that is held up in talks with European lawmakers.

A reform of EU farm subsidies agreed by member states in June after three months of marathon talks favours young farmers and smallholders over big business and has been called a "paradigm shift" for Europe.

"This is the challenge we must meet," said Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Vigilijus Juknawho as he met fellow European Union ministers in Brussels.

The ministers are locked in a row with European lawmakers, who want the reforms to go further.

If a compromise is not found before the end of the month, the European Commission could choose to suspend payments to farmers.

The main sticking point is how the reform affects large-scale farmers, with lawmakers pushing for more redistribution of farm aid to small holdings and ministers maintaining the reform has gone far enough.

EU ministers were to discuss the matter further Monday with another session of talks with the Commission and lawmakers set for the evening.

Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who spearheaded the reform during the Irish EU presidency earlier this year, said there remained little room for more compromise from states.

But he said he was confident the Lithuanian presidency could find a deal in the coming weeks.

If approved, the CAP reform is due to be implemented starting in 2014.

Under the current rules, 80 percent of CAP payments go to the top 20 percent of intensive farm businesses since several countries still link the subsidies to production levels.

As the reform stands, member states would have to ensure that by 2019 each farmer receives at least 60 percent of the average national or regional subsidy per hectare. This would remove the advantage written into the current system for the more productive industrial farms.

The deal also states that 30 percent of EU members' farm payments will also be spent on "green" measures such as crop diversification.

The CAP accounts for about 38 percent of the EU's budget.