EU farming crisis to stay 'for some time'
By Peter Teffer
EU states have proposed over 100 initiatives to help the European farm sector recover from the “long-lasting, profound crisis”, EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said Monday (7 March).
But he warned members of the European Parliament's agriculture committee in Strasbourg that the crisis is “still likely to be with us for some time to come”.
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“The market is still in a very difficult situation,” he said, adding that recovery has been slower than previously thought.
Hogan asked MEPs for input a week ahead of a ministerial meeting aimed at deciding EU-wide measures. He said the EU actions need to be within the legal framework of the EU's agriculture policy, must recognise the constraints of the budget, and command a “broad support” among member states.
“I am constrained within the limit of my resources. You and I have to agree that every year,” he told MEPs. “I'm also limited by the legislation. I try to work within the tools I've been given.”
The Irish politician reminded MEPs of the €420 million of direct aid the EU made available to farmers last year.
“Some of these amounts have not yet been given out. So there are resources out there,” he said, adding that only 10 of 28 member states have implemented last year's measures.
Next Monday, farm ministers will gather in Brussels to discuss the situation in agricultural markets and to decide on European steps.
MEPs in the agriculture committee said many European farmers are struggling.
“This is not people crying wolf, this is now families in serious danger of losing everything they have,” said British Conservative MEP James Nicholson.
A prominent Green MEP from France, Jose Bove, said that 600 French farmers had committed suicide out of despair. He persuaded his fellow MEPs and the commissioner to commemorate them in a moment of silence.
While some MEPs said they had hoped Hogan would have been more concrete, the commissioner noted that he did not want to present any package before having spoken to the parliament.
He will now use the coming week to come up with proposals and present them at next week's ministerial, he said.
The Dutch EU presidency is also assessing the various proposals that have come in.
Falling prices, especially in the dairy and meat sector, prompted protests by farmers in February in France, the EU's largest agricultural producer.
Farmers last September also clashed with police during protests in the EU capital, Brussels.
EU deregulation of the milk industry, which came into effect in March last year, is part of the reason for the trend. Russia bans on EU exports of dairy products, pork, and sea food, also prompted lost income.