How are farmers treated in your country

Farm tax: The farmers' struggle for their pensions

Transmission date: 18.09.2018 21:15 | archive
by Leonie Puscher and Kian Badrnejad

Farmer, this is not a job like any other. The farmers' schedule is dictated by nature; they have to get up earlier than others, cope with the whims of the weather and the pricing policy of the big discounters. But there is something else that sets them apart from all other entrepreneurs. If a farmer wants to receive his pension, he has to give up his business or shut it down. This is what the so-called farm tax clause, a 61-year-old regulation, says. Back then, in 1957, the government wanted to use it to accelerate change in agriculture.

VIDEO: Farm tax: the farmers' struggle for their pension (8 min)

The farm tax clause - a relic from the old days

Agriculture, forestry and horticulture social insurance is responsible for pensions for farmers.

The old patriarchs, who still ran their small farms with horse-drawn carts, were not to sit on their land until death. Instead, so the idea, they should pass their farm on to younger, innovative farmers who ultimately also have larger and economically stronger farms. As a rule, those were their own children back then. Times have changed since 1957, but the farm tax clause remained.

The system works like this: like any other citizen, farmers can apply for a pension at 67. However, it is not the statutory pension insurance that is responsible, but the "Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture" (SVLFG). With the SVLFG, too, the approval and the amount of the pension depend on whether and for how long the farmers have paid in. But they also have to prove that they have sold their land, leased it for at least nine years or closed it down. If the farmers cannot or do not want to do this, they will not receive a pension.

Farmers are fighting against the pension system

Bernward Löffler would rather give up his pension than give up his farm.

Bernward Löffler can only shake his head at this. He doesn't want to give up his farm. A farm that has been family-owned since the 19th century, and Löffler has been helping on the fields since he was a child. Which he is so attached to that he has been giving up his pension for six years. For years he has been fighting against this system with other farmers from all over Germany in a working group.

On August 9, 2018, the fight seemed to have been won. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled: "The coupling of an old-age pension to the handover of an agricultural farm actually interferes with the freedom of property under Article 14 of the Basic Law."

Despite the verdict, the pension is not paid out

This is a great success for lawyer Jutta Sieverdingbeck-Lewers. For nine years she had represented farmers in court and fought against the farm tax clause. But the joy was short-lived. When the first farmers submitted their pension applications, it was said on the insurance company's website: The SVLFG is initially forced to implement a fundamentally existing ban on the application and suspension of old-age pension permits until new regulations are introduced by the legislature. "

Christian Meyer (DIE GRÜNEN) campaigned for the abolition of the farm tax clause during his time as Minister of Agriculture.

Christian Meyer (DIE GRÜNEN), former Minister of Agriculture of Lower Saxony, is outraged by the further delay in payments. "It can't be that a pension insurance agency has to wait years for a legislator to make a decision. The constitutional court has said that the farm tax clause does not exist and you can't say: I won't pay a pension until then." Meyer himself fought for the abolition of the farm tax clause in his function as Minister of Agriculture. His initiative in the Federal Council failed in 2015.

The farmers' association adheres to the clause

The farmers' association, on the other hand, advocates keeping the controversial clause. Ulrich Löhr is Vice President of the Lower Saxony farmers' association, the rural people. He wants to continue to adhere to the farm tax clause.

Ulrich Löhr, Vice President of the Lower Saxony Farmers' Association, defends the controversial clause.

Your main argument is still that young farmers need support. The areas should be available to them more quickly because they are innovative and promote agriculture. "I can understand that one or the other special case feels that they have been treated unfairly, but we also have to see the big ones, the many others who like this system. Nobody is forced to give up the farm. Everyone can continue to do business but to live with the consequences that he will not receive a pension when he continues to do business. "

Farmers and lawyers keep fighting

For farmers like Bernward Löffler, living with the consequences means that he should continue to receive no pension if he does not give up his business. He does not understand that the social security does not approve his pension application even after the judgment. "So I thought, now you will still get your pension after six years that you have been withheld for six years. At first I was happy. But sometimes the big end comes after," says the farmer sadly.

Jutta Sieverdingbeck-Lewers has stood before the BVerfG for farmers and the suspension of the farm tax clause.

Lawyer Jutta Sieverdingbeck-Lewers does not share the position of social security for farmers: "The Federal Constitutional Court has said that this situation is unconstitutional and that a pension must then also be approved." Only the farm tax obligation falls away, the remaining parts of the law can continue to be applied. She will keep fighting. It is still unclear how the farm tax clause will proceed. Whether the new law separates from it or is only improved and the farm levy is retained. Bernward Löffler has to wait while the lawyers argue. "I feel cheated out of my pension," he says. But before he surrenders the farm, he prefers to do without. So far it has already been 36,000 euros that he has lost due to the regulation

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Panorama 3 | 09/18/2018 | 9:15 pm