‘The EU grain sector is now in a critical state’

The EU grain sector is now in a critical state, with global wheat prices at their lowest level for 10 years, according to the Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen.

Ireland and France were badly affected in 2016, while global cereal supply is reaching record levels, Pesonen said.

Producers have been hit by low market prices and high input costs, meaning many commodity markets are in a fragile state, warned the Secretary-General.

We consequently believe emergency support should be given to avoid farmers going bankrupt.

He went on to support calls made by 18 Ministers for Agriculture this week to change the proposals concerning simplification of the greening measures under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“Some of the measures being considered by the Commission will not make farmers’ lives simpler.

“In particular, it is a problem that the Commission is considering banning the use of pesticides for protein crops in Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) as this does not amount to simplification.”

At the meeting of EU Farm Ministers, proposed changes to the income stabilisation tool included in the EU Rural Development Policy were made as there has been little take up of it, according to Copa and Cogeca.

The Commission believes that the changes will make it easier for Member States to use so that aid can be activated when income losses on the farm are 20% instead of 30%.

Pesonen said that the changes were a step in the right direction and should improve uptake of the scheme across the EU.

It is a positive step as it should help to improve uptake of the scheme and better target support, especially for the dairy and beef sectors.

Other proposals were also discussed at the ministers’ meeting which included some changes to the financial instruments to make it easier for farmers to get loans under the EU Rural Development Policy.

However, Pesonen called for further changes so that there is a better response in times of crisis, especially in the dairy and pork sector.

In addition, a proposal included changes to the definition of an ‘active farmer’, giving Member States more discretion in how they define it.

These proposed changes to the definition could lead to significant differences in how rules are applied in Member States and less harmonisation of how they are applied, he said.

Active farmers‘ are currently defined as a qualified farmer (ie holds a Green Cert) or a person who farms land for 50% of their normal working time, both for a minimum period of six years.

Alternatively a person can be declared an ‘active farmer’, and can avail of schemes or tax exemptions that other farmers cannot, if they lease their land to a person who meets the above criteria for a minimum of six years.

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