Dairy groups want EU to soften stance on superlevy fines

Dairy sector groups continue to lobby Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos for the EU to soften its stance on superlevy fines for the remaining 14 months of the quota era.

While farmer groups in some member states still hold out hope of some relief in relation to the butterfat adjustment, the EU has insisted it will not change its rules to offer a “soft landing” prior to the end of the milk quota era in April 2015.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney led a group of member states which last week pushed for a butterfat adjustment to ease some of the pressure on dairy farmers. He was supported by agriculture ministers from Britain, Germany, Luxembourg and Denmark.

Commissioner Ciolos also listened to a call to ease the quota rules to reflect rising market demand for milk. However, he said that any decision to change the 2008 CAP Health Check would require a co-decision procedure between the Council and Parliament.

IFA national dairy chairman, Sean O’Leary, said it was crucial that Minister Coveney would leave no stone unturned to try and ease the burden of superlevy on dairy farmers before March 31, 2015.

Mr O’Leary said: “While the minister claims support for additional soft landing measures is now forthcoming from an increased 11 member states, the political numbers still fall far short of the qualified majority required for change. My advice to farmers is that they continue to limit their super levy exposure by planning for no change before March 15.”

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said it is now clear that farmer groups across the EU need to build political support to address this issue in both the European Parliament and the Council of farm ministers.

“The concept of ‘soft landing’ with regard to the milk quota regime was introduced in the CAP Health Check in 2008 to provide for a smooth transition from the quota system towards production determined by market potential,” she said.

“According to the Commissioner, the superlevy and the 2008 soft landing decisions allowing for an increase in milk quotas of 1% a year over five years, and additional possibilities granted by a change in the fat correction factor, ensure a gradual adjustment to a quota-free environment by avoiding an abrupt upsurge in production.”

The Commission is planning to set up a Milk Market Observatory to collect and disseminate market data and short-term analysis for the dairy market.

Commissioner Ciolos said quotas are no longer hampering dairy expansion as EU quota levels are higher than dairy output. He added that quotas are coming close to being unsaleable.

Farm groups, however, argue that viewing the figures from an EU-wide perspective fails to take account of the plight of farmers in more productive member states facing fines for over-quota supplies.


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