Farm ministers embark on “crisis crunch talks” in Brussels

The UK’s four farming union presidents are due to meet the UK’s four farming ministers in Brussels today ahead of what industry leaders across Europe are hoping will be a ground-breaking meeting of the EU Council of Farm Ministers.

The council meeting, taking place later today and continuing on Tuesday, will focus on finding solutions to Europe’s farm industry crisis, especially as it affects the pigmeat and dairy sectors. The UK farming unions believe that urgent action is required at an EU and UK level.

The home nations’ pre-council session will involve UK farm minister, Liz Truss; Scotland’s Richard Lochhead; Northern Ireland’s Michelle O’Neill and the Welsh Assembly’s Rebecca Evans in talks with the four UK farm union leaders at the NFU’s offices in Brussels.

At around the same time, farming leaders from other EU member states are due to meet the EU’s Dutch Presidency to press for action on a package of measures which have already been submitted to the European Commission (EC) to debate during the council meeting.

Warning that many EU farmers faced being “forced out of business” over the next few months, Copa-Cogeca secretary-general, Pekka Pesonen, urged the EU to ”act now” or risk a future in which it would not be able to feed the population of the future.

The council meeting will address the following package of measures, as proposed by farming organisations across Europe:

  • re-opening of the Russian market;
  • reinforcement of promotion measures and use of export credit insurance;
  • combatting unfair practices along the food chain so that farmers get a better return for their produce and are not squeezed unfairly by retailers (currently getting only 20% of the market price of a price of steak for example);
  • adaptation of tools to manage key commodity markets: temporarily increase the intervention price for skimmed milk powder (SMP) and butter taking into account the increased production costs;
  • extension of private storage aid (PSA) for dairy products;
  • update market tools for the fruit and vegetables sector, including review of the withdrawal price:
  • establish pilot projects allowing the use of fats that can no longer be used as a foodstuff for the production of biofuels or other non-food purpose.

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