More focus must be put on measures to help farmers better manage risks under the Common Agricultural Policy.
Copa and Cogeca, the European umbrella bodies for farmers and co-operatives, made the call as European Union farm ministers held an informal meeting in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.
Cogeca president Thomas Magnusson welcomed the Estonian EU presidency priorities to make progress on the future CAP over the next six months.
“Farmer’s incomes are currently at 40% of average earnings and they are suffering from increasing challenges like adverse weather events and increased market fluctuations,” said Mr Magnusson. “They will also have to produce a lot more food in the future to feed a growing population using less resources.
“We therefore need a strong and competitive Cap with simpler, common rules and adequate funding to help farmers and their co-operatives to meet these challenges.”
Mr Magnusson said direct payments must be kept in the first pillar of the Cap as this helps farmers and co-operatives to better manage income risks.
Market safety nets must also be kept and further developed. Convergence and harmonisation of direct payments under the Cap must continue. Focus also needs to be put on developing future markets to cope with increasing volatility.
He said agri-co-operatives can and do play an important role in managing market risks for their members as well as helping them have a better position in the food chain.
“EU studies show that agri co-operatives help farmers to get a better price for their produce. For that reason, we need to encourage the development of agri co-operatives,” he said.
Mr Magnusson warned that a European Commission suggestion on the future of EU finances post-2020 to introduce national co-funding for direct payments under the first pillar of the Cap risks renationalising the policy.
The commission meanwhile notes in its latest markets brief that recent developments indicate that risks faced by European farmers will be increasing.
Greater exposure to global markets and emerging new risks such as those linked to climate change render the income of farmers more fragile.
The current Cap proposes a detailed system for managing risks but the uptake of a number of tools remains low, it said, adding that certain issues need to be further explored.
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