Farm spending loses top spot

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will spend more on modernizing the EU economy than on agriculture next year, the first time farmers have been knocked off top spot in the bloc’s annual budget. »The budget being presented today marks a historic turning point for the European Union,» European Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters. Spending by the EU executive for 2008, as proposed by the Commission, is set to rise by 2 percent from spending levels in 2007 to -129.2 billion. Of the total, -57.2 billion would go to spending aimed at boosting economic growth, such as research, transport networks, training and regional aid, up 4.2 percent from 2007. Farm spending, most of it production subsidies but also cash to develop Europe’s countryside, would be stable at -56.3 billion, according to the budget plan. The budget must be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states. The way the EU spends its budget in the future will be debated in 2008 and 2009 and a bone of contention will be the allocation for agriculture once an agreement on farm subsidies expires in 2013.