Using super levies to help the wider dairy industry

A point overlooked, certainly in this country, in the aftermath of last week’s EU Farm Council Meeting was a call from COPA-COGECA for milk super levy monies that are collected in the current year to be maintained for the specific benefit of the EU dairy sector moving forward. This makes perfect sense to me given that, up to now, the levies collected were simply returned to Brussels and subsumed within the overall EU budget.

After all, this is farmers’ money and the fact that it is normally lost to the agri-sector post collection is grossly unfair. Earlier this year, the Commission confirmed that volatility will be one of the biggest challenges facing Europe’s milk industry as a whole. So, why not use the monies that will be accrued by the 2014/’15 levy trawl to set up some form of stability fund that can help EU dairy farmers across the board meet this specific challenge? And if this suggestion doesn’t hit the high notes in Brussels no doubt there is a host of other uses – all dairy related – to which the super levy finds can be put.

The other glaring impression created by the outcome of last week’s Council meeting was the absolute hypocrisy demonstrated by the Italian representation, who signalled their total opposition to any way forward which would recognise Ireland’s just request for a butterfat levy amendment.

That I am aware of, Italy has been granted derogation after derogation in the past so as to allow that country apply a high degree of flexibility when it comes to meeting a whole plethora of EU regulations. And, let’s not forget, that the Italian government has tried to drive a coach and horses through the current milk quota legislation. For example, exactly a year ago, the EU Commission had to tell the Italian government that aid in the form of a deferred payment system to dairy farmers – linked to accrued super levy liabilities – was not legal.

I bet that came as a shock to the authorities in Rome. But, hey, God loves a trier!

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