French pressure on EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to start paying dairy farmers to voluntarily reduce milk production is expected next week.
After no relief measures for struggling farmers emerged at last Monday’s meeting of EU agriculture ministers — despite French President Francois Hollande calling for decisions to help his country’s agriculture — Mr Hogan agreed to go to Paris on February 25 to meet French Prime Minister Manuel Valls andAgriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll, to hear French proposals.
On Monday, Mr Hogan acknowledged a shared understanding in the EU Council of Ministers that there is a crisis in a number of sectors, notably dairy and pigmeat.
He said he is not happy with the current situation of farmers, and it requires an EU-wide response.
Mr Le Foll presented proposals to regulate oversupply in the milk and pigmeat sectors, but the European Commission asked him to come back with new proposals.
French dairy and meat farmers have been staging protests for weeks, blocking roads, dumping manure, straw and earth in front of public buildings and supermarkets.
Mr Le Foll pledged to work on new solutions and “convince all our partners and the commission to make proposals.”
He is likely to also seek a temporary increase in the EU’s dairy intervention price.
EU farmers’ groups welcomed acknowledgement by Mr Hogan and farm ministers that dairy and pigmeat markets are in a critical state.
However, the Irish dairy industry will oppose any re-introduction of quotas “by the backdoor”, if that emerges from talks.
ICOS Agri & Food Policy Executive Eamonn Farrell has said the co-op movement is steadfastly opposed to quotas as suggested by the European Milk Board of 15 farmer organisations across the EU.
Unilateral action by the EU to limit milk production will open the door for New Zealand and US farmers to push ahead, leaving the European farmer behind once again, said Mr Farrell.
“The EMB proposal also fails to recognise the comparative advantage which member states such as Ireland possess in milk production, and would seek to once again hold back an industry seeking to reach its true potential following over 30 years of quota management,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Hogan said any crisis aid for farmers has to be consistent with the CAP legal framework, be within the constraints of the EU budget, and be broadly supported by member states.
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