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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Billions in Misspent EU Agricultural Subsidies Could Support the Sustainable Development Goals

Scown, Murray W.; Brady, Mark, V; Nicholas, Kimberly A.


The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the guiding policy for agriculture and the largest single budget item in the European Union (EU). Agriculture is essential to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but the CAP's contribution to do so is uncertain. We analyzed the distribution of (sic)59.4 billion of 2015 CAP payments and show that current CAP spending exacerbates income inequality within agriculture, while little funding supports climate-friendly and biodiverse farming regions. More than (sic)24 billion of 2015 CAP direct payments went to regions where average farm incomes are already above the EU median income. A further (sic)2.5 billion in rural development payments went to primarily urban areas. Effective monitoring indicators are also missing. We recommend redirecting and better monitoring CAP payments toward achieving the environmental, sustainability, and rural development goals stated in the CAP's new objectives, which would support the SDGs, the European Green Deal, and green COVID-19 recovery.

Published in

One Earth
2020, Volume: 3, number: 2, pages: 237-250

    SLU Authors

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG10 Reduced inequalities

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