The depth of the farm crisis was brought to the fore this week in Strasbourg as one French MEP recalled that 600 French farmers had died by suicide linked to the current crisis in the industry.

MEPs held a minute of silence for all farmers who died by suicide due to their dire situation arising from the ongoing crisis on agriculture markets.

At a meeting of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee on Monday evening, MEP Mairead McGuinness said that “there is something very rotten in our society today if those who produce food are so desperate on their farms that they are committing suicide”.

“We do have to ask ourselves what state we are in that we have to eat food three times a day and those who produce it are so desperate.”

Furthermore, the current slump in farm commodity prices is deep and shows little sign of abating, McGuinness said.

Many MEPs welcomed the Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan’s recognition that the EU farming sector is experiencing “a deep and profound crisis which in the short term shows little sign of improvement.”

The committee further called on the Commission to act to help EU farmers cope with falling prices for their produce.

The Commission should use all available tools and not shy away from proposing new ones even if it entails legislative changes.

It is, however, clear that Commissioner Hogan does not support increasing the intervention price for milk, but is exploring voluntary supply control measures.

The call for more action comes amidst continuing volatility on markets, but more could be done to ensure farmers get a fair return for their produce, according to McGuinness.

“It is not only dairy and pigmeat sectors that are facing the crisis but grain farmers and fruit and vegetable growers are struggling too.

“I have reiterated my call for EU legislation to tackle unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and have asked Commissioner Hogan to put the case forward for such action with his fellow Commissioners to do more to ensure fairness in the food supply chain.

“Farm families are the backbone of our economy and we need to ensure that EU policies support farmers in making a viable living out of food production.

“It is important that farm families who are under pressure receive support and do not feel alone and isolated by the situation they find themselves in,” she added, urging anyone who is under pressure to seek help.