Commissioner Hogan announces new EU farm support package
EU Ministers have agreed new measures to support the ailing farm sector.
The European Commission has announced a package of measures to help EU farmers struggling from low market prices, including moves to allow dairy farmers to engage in supply management and increasing the volumes going into dairy intervention.
The Commission will also consider allowing member states to provide up to €15,000 per farmer per year in state aid.
EU Agriculture Ministers met in Brussels on Monday to discuss possible ideas, pooled from all member states, to ease the EU-wide financial crisis facing thousands of farmers across the sectors.
The package agreed is targeted mainly at the dairy, pigmeat and fruit and vegetable sectors.
Key elements include:
- Application of voluntary supply management
The Commission will activate, for a limited period of time, the possibility of producer organisations, inter-branch organisations and cooperatives in the dairy sector establishing voluntary agreements on their production and supply.
This is the so-called Article 222 from the Common Market Organisation (CMO), which can be applied in case of severe imbalance in agricultural markets. The Commission has concluded the strict conditions for the application of this article to the dairy sector apply today.
- Temporary increase in state aid
The Commission will give its 'full consideration' to allowing member states to provide state aid to a maximum of €15,000 per farmer per year, with no national ceiling applying.
- Doubling intervention ceilings for skimmed milk powder and butter
The Commission will increase the quantity ceilings for skimmed milk powder and butter put into intervention from 109,000 tonnes and 60,000 tonnes respectively to 218, 000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes. "This way, we clearly commit to supporting the fixed intervention price," it said.
- Strengthening the producer in the supply chain
The role and position of producers in the food supply chain continues to be of great concern, the Commission said.
The Agricultural Markets Taskforce, launched as part of the €500 million support package from September 2015, will deliver conclusions and legislative recommendations to improve the balance in the chain this autumn.
It was decided on Monday that High Level national representatives would meet with the Agricultural Markets Taskforce with the view to specifically look at the dairy sector.
- Support for pigmeat sector
In response to the proposals for a new private storage aid scheme for pigmeat, Agriculture Commissioner Pil Hogan will consider the introduction of a new scheme.
- Establishment of a Meat Market Observatory
Member States all recognised and praised the Commission’s work in monitoring the market and sharing valuable information on trends. Following the introduction of the Milk Market Observatory in 2014, a Meat Market Observatory will be set up, covering beef and pigmeat.
- International Trade
Commissioner Hogan expressed the Commission's determination to promote the EU’s interests and open up new markets for EU products in negotiations on TTIP and Mercosur, while negotiating a differentiated treatment for sensitive products.
The Commission said promotion campaigns were a key instrument in finding new markets and over €110 million will be available for 2016 only to support promotion of EU agricultural produce within the EU and in third countries.
Over €30 million was specifically earmarked for the pigmeat and dairy sectors last September. The Commission will increase that allocation to use the additional amount available to reflect the market disturbances in those sectors.
- Russian/SPS Bans
Despite our efforts to try to ensure a rapid resumption of trade between the EU and Russia, 'very little has happened', the Commission said.
However, important progress has been made in lifting of 'unjustified or disproportionate phytosanitary measures by third countries' which will contribute to substantially increased trade flows. This includes progress in the US, Japanese, Brazilian and Ukrainian markets, he said.
- Financial instruments/European Investment Bank/European Fund for Strategic Investments
The Commission will prioritise its engagement with the EIB, with a view to developing appropriate financial instruments to assist farmers and processors to invest in their enterprises to improve the competitiveness of those enterprises or to invest in making any necessary structural adjustments.
Member States are also encouraged to make full use of the opportunities offered by the European Fund for Strategic Investment for investment in the agricultural sector and to look into the possibilities of setting up dedicated platforms for EFSI financing.
- Export Credit
The Commission is examining the feasibility of an export credit scheme, which could supplement the schemes which Member States are operating on a national basis scheme. In that regard, the Directorate General for Agriculture is stepping up its contacts with the EIB and the relevant agencies in the Member States.
- Fruit & Vegetable Sector
The Commission is considering a prolongation of the exceptional measures for Fruit and Vegetables, arising from the Russian ban which will expire on June 30.
- Rural Development
The Commission will work together with the Member States to see where and how rural development programmes can be adjusted to make them more responsive to the current crisis.
In a speech at the Agriculture Council, Mr Hogan said: "This is a package of measures which can have a material and positive impact on European agricultural markets and it should now be given the chance to succeed."
"In the interest of EU farmers, I am prepared to use all instruments that the legislators have put at our disposal, both as a short term and long term measure.
"We must use the appropriate instruments and actions to enable farmers to be resilient in the face of volatility whilst providing immediate assistance to them.
"Today’s response is a comprehensive one, taking on board as many of the proposals as can be done, within the legal and budgetary constraints that apply to all of us.
"I believe that this is a package of measures which, when taken with the full implementation of the September solidarity package, can have a material and positive impact on European agricultural markets and it should now be given the chance to succeed."