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Thousands of farmers to demonstrate in Brussels as EU farm protests intensify

An estimated 4,000 farmers from across Europe are set to descend on Brussels to take part in a mass demonstration on Monday, after French farmers took their tractors to Paris.
French farmers took more than 1,000 tractors to Paris on Thursday.
French farmers took more than 1,000 tractors to Paris on Thursday.

Monday’s protest in Brussels will take place outside an extraordinary meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers called to discuss possible solutions to the difficult market conditions many farming sectors are facing.

 

EU umbrella farming body Copa-Cogeca said the ‘mass demonstration’ was being held ‘in response to the drastic situation hitting EU dairy, pork, fruit and vegetable and beef producers’.

 

It has already been a week of protest.


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Farmers and agricultural leaders descend on Brussels for day of protests Farmers and agricultural leaders descend on Brussels for day of protests

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In France on Thursday, thousands of farmers, and more than 1,300 tractors, descended on Paris to demand more support from their Government.

 

“The idea is to put pressure on Paris," Luc Smessaert, from France’s biggest farm union, told Reuters.

 

"Never before has there been such a large number of tractors hitting the roads (in a protest).”

 

Around 2,000 farmers protested outside the EU Commission offices in Dublin on Monday at an event organised by the Irish Farmers Association.

Price volatility

Addressing the demonstrators, IFA President Eddie Downey said farmers were ‘under severe pressure as political interference in markets, severe price volatility and unregulated retailers combine to decimate farm incomes and undermine the sector’.

 

He said immediate action by the Commission was needed to resolve the income crisis, particularly in the grain, dairy and pigs sectors.

 

On Monday up to 70 farmers staged a peaceful protest outside the Commission's office in Belfast, urging Brussels to step in and help solve the current farming crisis.

 

Farmers in Northern Ireland will be staging a further protest at Stormont, in Belfast today Friday, which the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) said it hoped would ‘send a strong message to the European Commission’.

 

UFU president Ian Marshall said: “People in Northern Ireland understand the importance of a vibrant food industry to the local economy – our aim is to make sure this message is heard in Brussels.”

 

Next Monday will see farmers from various member states heading to Brussels to make their collective voices heard.

 

 

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Copa-Cogeca said the demonstrators would ‘underline the unprecedented situation and demand action’ from EU Ministers as they meet to discuss possible to help alleviate the situation help in the immediate- and longer-term.

 

It said prices were below production costs in many countries and low farm incomes were forcing businesses out of production.

 

It said producers were victims of international politics some out of business, with much of the problem caused by Russian export restrictions, which have affected the EU pigmeat, dairy, fruit and vegetable and beef markets.

Not enough

“Copa and Cogeca welcome as a step forward the actions taken so far by the EU Commission to help alleviate the situation but it is nowhere enough to compensate producers for their losses. The EU Commission, Ministers, MEPs must act.”

 

About 70 farmers from the four UK nations will be among the demonstrators.

 

The NFU will coordinate England’s part in the demonstration. NFU President Meurig Raymond will meet with a UK Ministerial Delegation to stress the need for urgent action.

 

Mr Raymond called on Defra Secretary Liz Truss to ‘strongly stand up for British farming interests in Europe’.

 

He said British farmers from all sectors were calling on the UK Government to work with the European Commission to implement 10 key measures to enable British farmers to better withstand market volatility.

 

NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie, vice president Rob Livesey and livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam will lead the Scottish representation in Brussels.

 

Also on Monday, seven members of NFU Scotland’s board of directors will be in Westminster to meet with Scottish MPs to discuss the current crisis in Scottish farming and the union’s vision for the industry.

 

He said: “These are unprecedented times for Scottish farming with so many key contributors to our agricultural output – cropping, livestock and dairy - struggling in the face of low prices, extreme market volatility and challenging weather.

 

“But we are not alone, and these are problems faced by fellow farmers in the UK and across Europe.

 

“While it is a perpetual challenge to manage the laws of supply and demand, there are actions that can be taken across the supply chain to ease the current crisis, prevent farmers going out of business and, instead, realise their potential.

 

“On Monday, we will discuss those actions with our politicians in Brussels and London.”

 

NFU Cymru’s president and deputy president, Stephen James and John Davies, will be taking part in the demonstration alongside NFU Cymru members from across Wales.

 

Mr James said, “Farmers from all sectors and from all parts of the UK will join together on Monday. We are calling on the Governments across the UK to work with the European Commission to implement 10 key measures to enable our farmers to better withstand market volatility.”

What could farmers get out of Brussels on Monday?

The Brussels Ministerial meeting will discuss a number of possible measures to help alleviate the pressure on farm incomes. These include:

  • Temporarily increasing the intervention price for dairy products
  • Considering 'flexibility' over the delivery of direct payments, possibly in the form of early part payments
  • Extending of the measures for fruit and vegetables and dairy products beyond June 30 and February 29 2016, respectively.
  • Financing for the modernisation of agriculture and energy efficiency
  • Measures to enhance promotion, externally by addressing trade barriers, and internally through a proposed aid scheme for the supply of fruit, vegetable and milk in educational establishments
  • The development of a milk futures market
  • A look at future role of the European Milk Market Observatory and
  • Transparency and fairness along the supply chain
  • Simplification of EU regulation

 

 

NFU president Meurig Raymond outlined some of the 10 measures he wants the UK Government to work with the European Commission to implement. These include:

  • The European Commission to implement measures to ease cash flow difficulties and strengthen safety nets
  • A long term approach in the food supply chain. In dairy this means contracts that allow farmers to plan for the future and lock in a milk price reflective of the cost of production
  • British farmers need the GSCOP and Groceries Code Adjudicator to stamp out unfair trading practices in the food supply chain
  • The same protection should be offered by other member states when British farmers trade with European retailers
  • UK ministers to work alongside their devolved and European colleagues to significantly strengthen country of origin labelling across all food lines

 

NFU Scotland has also outlined its priorities. These include:

  • Ensuring delivery of direct support payments under the new CAP arrangements in December
  • Delivery of agri-environment and rural development support in early autumn
  • Significantly simplifying the CAP
  • Exploring options for long term investment in agriculture through the European Investment Bank
  • Commitment to review the intervention levels for dairy products
  • Ensure food sourced from outside the EU doesn’t contravene EU regulations or distort the market place
  • Establish an EU task force to tackle the lamb market and sheep sector and drive forward longer term measures in the dairy sector to provide resilience to extreme volatility.
  • Strengthening country of origin labelling (COOL)
  • Increase funding levels available for promoting Scottish or UK produce in new markets both in EU and non-EU countries
  • Strengthen investment in farming, research and innovation to improve productivity, efficiency and competitiveness

 

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