15 March 2016
Jim Nicholson MEP comments on measures announced by the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner.
Commenting on the measures announced by the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan at yesterday’s meeting of the EU’s agriculture ministers Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said:
“There has been a lot of build-up and speculation ahead of this week’s Agriculture Council. There is now, belatedly, recognition by Member States and the European Commission that the agricultural industry is in a state of crisis.
“Some of the measures such as the proposed Meat Market Observatory are new whilst others, such as those under the headings of international trade and promotion are effectively older initiatives which are being refocused.
“In terms of dairy I welcome that the intervention ceilings for skimmed milk powder and butter will be increased. Because of the quantity of product entering intervention I recently raised concerns with the Commissioner and his team about what arrangements would be in place once the ceilings were breached. I therefore welcome that there is now a degree of certainty for the dairy sector in terms of future arrangements.
“The other main dairy measure centres on the voluntary regulation of the milk supply. Ahead of the meeting this was opposed by a number of member states including the UK and the Republic of Ireland. I await further details regarding this temporary measure, it will be interesting to see which member states make use of this initiative as I gather countries will have to fund it via their own funds.
“Another headline measure is the proposal to set up a body to monitor the beef and pigmeat markets, a so-called Meat Market Observatory. If this measure is to have a positive impact it must learn from the Milk Market Observatory which was formed in 2014 and has is yet to fully live up to expectations and is itself in need of an overhaul.
“During the press conference Commissioner Hogan once again highlighted that Member States and regions have considerable flexibility within the Rural Development Programme and crucially have the ability to amend their programmes during the programming period. This underscores that national authorities can implement schemes tailored to suit local needs and address problems within their region. It is vital that this flexibility is used by ministers and officials to benefit farmers on the ground.
“It was also interesting to note is that the fact that only 10 of the 28 member states have paid out their allocations from last year’s €420million aid package has not helped to strengthen the Commissioner’s case for securing more EU funds for agriculture.
“Developing specific financial instruments and risk management tools to address volatility and promote investment in European agriculture is another area which the Commission has been keen to promote for some time. Uptake of these initiatives in the EU is slow but we are beginning to see some examples being rolled out. The potential of financial and risk management tools must be fully explored.
“I am disappointed that there is nothing within the package relating to input costs, specifically the price of fertiliser. Commissioner Hogan recently confirmed to me that he is pushing for at least a temporary suspension of EU tariffs and duties on imported fertiliser. The removal of these tariff barriers would help make the market more competitive and drive down prices and I will continue to press the Commission on this issue in the days and weeks ahead.”
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