Policy Insights - Reinforcing small farm resilience
Small farms are a key component of the EU rural economy. CAP Strategic Plans (CSPs) offer many opportunities for reinforcing the long-term resilience of small farms through improved knowledge, enhanced productivity, and coordinated cooperation.
Small farms are a key component of the EU rural economy. In fact, over three quarters of farms in the EU are classified as small with holding sizes below 10 hectares, and a large proportion of these small farms are below five hectares in size. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) recognises that these small farms are a cornerstone of Europe’s agri-food sector. Member States’ CAP Strategic Plans (CSPs) offer many opportunities for reinforcing the long-term resilience of small farms through improved knowledge, enhanced productivity, and coordinated cooperation.
Small farms play vital roles in sustaining ecosystem services including food supplies, supporting rural employment and conserving rural culture, as well as contributing to territorial development in rural areas. Yet the number of small farms in Member States has been declining due to a mix of socio-economic and environmental factors, including market pressures, peripherality, limitations on scale, scope and critical mass. The European Parliament considers that small farms suffer disproportionately from these development challenges which result in a continuation of farm land being consolidated into larger holdings, abandoned or lost from agricultural use.
The article offers insights on CSP interventions that offer transformative opportunities for small farms to address systemic challenges, including a dedicated redistribution mechanism governing direct payments under CAP Pillar 1. It then focuses on how CSPs can further reinforce small farms’ wider resilience through their useful range of rural development interventions. These help farms grow and modernise their businesses by improving productivity, diversifying operations, and enhancing market participation.
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