Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Opinion

Nordic and Baltic farmers urgently need EU support

  • Farmers in the affected areas now need a promise that they will not be left to deal with the problems caused by extreme weather conditions on their own (Photo: European Parliament)

Agriculture is the single largest budget item in the European Union. Within a budget of more than €380bn, it is reasonable to expect a European ability to cope with crises and extraordinary events.

We hope that the Union will come forward with more initiatives to support farmers affected by this year's drought in northern Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Farmers’ incomes are already extremely low and are continuing to decline, risking the possibility of an exodus from rural areas, especially amongst the younger generation (Photo: Pixabay)

The ongoing heatwave in northern Europe has set several meteorological records. In many areas, we are experiencing the worst drought for decades. Many farmers have long passed the point where rain would make much difference – the damages to crops and grass for silage has already been done.

In many places, farmers face losses of half their harvest or more.

The effects are already evident.

Hay prices have soared. Cattle farmers are preparing to slaughter cows in anticipation of a fodder shortage in the autumn and the winter. The situation is also severe for pig farmers.

In addition to increased grain prices, there is a poor supply of enrichment materials. Thousands of families face economic difficulties when their annual income is dramatically reduced, but their costs remain.

Of course, agriculture, like other industries, must manage annual variations, and farmers should be expected to maintain a financial margin to manage such variations. However, the impact from the current heat and drought wave has exceeded dramatically any good farmer's reasonable expectations of preparedness.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has provided both security of supply and acceptable economic conditions for farmers. But the CAP must evolve as conditions change.

Probably, European farmers will see more extreme weather events, such as prolonged drought, freezing conditions, torrential rains. We must discuss how the CAP is complemented by mechanisms to manage such events, to avoid farmers being driven into bankruptcy.

Today's regulations in the EU are not adapted to situations such as extreme drought over a long period of time. Farmers are squeezed because of a regulatory framework that they cannot cope with on these occasions.

In addition, it takes a long time to get compensation, for example, due to the requirement of extensive documentation.

We welcome different initiatives by the commission, such as early payments and relaxed harvesting rules. However, it must be stated that these are not enough.

Early payments are vital to secure a farmer's liquidity, but they do not solve the fundamental problem of extreme loss of income. Early harvesting and the harvesting of ecological focus areas will contribute to an improved fodder situation, but cattle and pig farmers must still buy more fodder at increasing prices following the shortage.

We also welcome relaxed regulations on government subsidies, giving national governments the opportunity to intervene, but this must be considered an anomaly in a policy completely managed at the European level.

The Union has intervened with a flexible use of regulations before. Last year, for example, additional support measures for certain agricultural sectors, such as fruit, vegetables and dairy, were financed from the existing budget.

Special focus on natural catastrophes

While the difficulties from these sectors were common across the Union, caused by market conditions, we think that regional cross-border natural catastrophes should also be eligible for special consideration by the Union.

We thus urge the commission to continue to assess different measures to alleviate the situation for farmers in the affected countries.

The commission must start drawing conclusions from the ongoing event. This is not the last major regional crises for European farmers. The CAP must encompass mechanisms to deal with these situations systematically, rather than trying to get by through ad hoc decisions every time.

Agricultural organisations in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden have drawn attention to this crisis.

EU commissioner Phil Hogan, responsible for agricultural issues, has already reacted and signalled a continued willingness to find solutions.

This is very appreciated. We hope that further action will enable farmers to take the necessary farming decisions without being restricted by EU rules, which are based on farming in an average year.

This year has proven to be everything but an "average year". Instead, it has been an exceptional year. That calls for exceptional decisions.

Nicolaj Christoffersen is head of meat sector with the Danish Agriculture & Food Council and Viktoria Ostlund is senior advisor at the Federation of Swedish Farmers Meat

Progressive CAP alternative only hope for sustainability

We see the new CAP as spelling the death of rural communities, the acceleration of the rural exodus, the consolidation of big agribusinesses, jeopardising public health standards and turning binding climate change targets into optional goals for member states.

EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Viktor Orban of Hungary and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski seem to share the idea that the rights of some may come at the expense of the rights of others, and public institutions should serve the majority, and not all citizens.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  2. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  3. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  4. Former EU official sentenced for office rape
  5. Poland 'boxing in higher league', its PM says
  6. Brexit is wake-up call, Macron to warn in Europe speech
  7. Brexit talks to continue this week over Irish backstop
  8. Visegrad countries meeting with Israel called off

What does Poland want from the EU?

We propose several changes to the EU, derived from the political philosophy behind the current Polish government, and what Poles expect from the EU - this could be seen as a manifesto Poland wants the next European Commission to tackle.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  2. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  3. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  4. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  5. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  6. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  7. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  8. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us