EU commission blasted for 'headline grabbing' farmers' aid package

Lobbyists and MEPs condemn commission aid package as insulting and ineffective.

By William Louch

08 Sep 2015

Yesterday, EU farmers secured a €500m aid package in response to plummeting food prices caused by the combination of a Russian import ban, supply chain problems and the recent weakening of the Chinese import market.

Agriculture ministers from the 28 member states held a crisis meeting as 5000 farmers travelled to Brussels from all over Europe to protest the "drastic, EU agriculture situation."

Jyrki Katainen, vice-president of the European Commission, standing in for Commissioner Phil Hogan, said the proposals would target cash-flow difficulties, stabilise markets and address the functioning of the supply chain.


Specifically, the response is promising targeted aid for all member states, increasing efforts to tackle non-tariff barriers in third countries and encouraging the new European fund for strategic investments to invest in the agricultural sector.

Katainen said, "the response demonstrates that the Commission takes its responsibility towards farmers very seriously" describing the package as "comprehensive" and incorporating "the most appropriate measures that will have the greatest effect in support producers."

The package has met with criticism from lobbyists and MEPs. These criticisms pivot around the Commission's failure to review dairy intervention prices and the belief that the package is not substantial enough.

The EU farming and agri lobbying association that organised the protest, Copa-Cogeca, dismissed the package. Pekka Pesonen, head of Copa-Coegca said, "an aid package of €500m is nowhere near enough to compensate farmers for the loss of their main export market, Russia, which is worth €5.5bn annually."

Sinn Féin MEP and member of the EU Parliament's agriculture & rural affairs (AGRI) committee, Matt Carthy went further, describing Monday's package of measures as "an insult to farmers."

He went on to say that "Farmers across the board will be bitterly disappointed by the Commission's position but dairy farmers will be especially bewildered. They had a right to expect real action, especially in the area of intervention price. They are supplying milk below the cost of production, a scenario that is simply not sustainable."

Jim Nicholson, European Conservatives and Reformists group MEP and member of the EU Parliament's AGRI committee, echoed these complaints, highlighting the need for direct intervention in the dairy market and the paucity of the measures.

He said, "the headline grabbing €500m targeted aid for farmers will not amount to much once it is divided across member states…crucially the commission has not committed to a review of the dairy intervention prices. This is hugely frustrating given that current levels are totally out of date and as a result are ineffective."

He continued, "The commission must use all the tools at its disposal to relieve the immediate pressure on farmers reviewing the dairy intervention prices would help stabilise the market.

For example, “securing trade agreements and spending more on promotion are of benefit to the industry but in the longer term, meaningful action is needed now."

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