Farming union chiefs are to meet UK ministers in Brussels to discuss ways to respond to the deepening agricultural crisis in Europe, ahead of a high-profile meeting of Europe’s agriculture ministers on Monday March 14, 2016.
The UK farming unions believe that urgent action is required at an EU and UK level. New ways to boost trade and improve the market, access to finance and fairness in supply chains need to be found to reduce the pressure on struggling farmers.
Liz Truss, Richard Lochhead, Michelle O’Neill, and Rebecca Evans, will meet with the four presidents of the farming unions at the NFU offices in Brussels.
Following the meeting, ministers will meet their European counterparts, as well as Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, to discuss a range of measures proposed to help the industry.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “The UK food and farming sector is worth £103 billion and employs 3.8 million people – 13.4 per cent of the UK workforce. Our industry is currently experiencing major difficulties which need addressing urgently.
“We are calling on the Secretary of State to voice support for swift measures which could provide the urgent relief we need – such as the lifting of tariffs on fertiliser imports, establishing new financial instruments with the European Investment Bank and working to improve the dysfunctional European supply chain.
"As representatives of 70,000 farmers, we are committed to putting this across to the ministers on Monday.
“We are working at every level – local, national and European – to find new ways to take the burden off our struggling farmers.
"The cumulative effect of the Russian trade ban, supply and demand imbalances in the market and problems with the BPS payments delivery means that UK farmers are facing significant cash flow difficulties.
"We will suggest deliverable actions for the European Commission to tackle this undeniable farming crisis.”
At the last monthly Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels, Commissioner Hogan challenged member states to put forward suggestions to assist the struggling European farming sector.
The UK Government has submitted its thoughts to the president of the Council, ahead of Monday’s meeting.
Its priorities include the creation of a dairy futures market, clearer country of origin labelling for dairy products across the EU and moves to tackle ’unfair trading practices’ in the EU supply chain.
But it dismisses proposals for additional EU market support or intervention in the dairy sector, describing this as a ’backward step’.