European cereal farmers will be able to cultivate as much of their land as they want after EU agriculture ministers suspended their compulsory set-aside rate for one year .
In most member states, 10 percent of a grower’s land had to be left alone. But for autumn of this year and spring 2008, this restriction has been lifted.
The move is to compensate for poor harvests and more demand, which have combined to see the price of corn go up by 85 percent between 2005 and 2006. In the last year, wheat has also become 60 percent more expensive.
This has had an upward effect not only on the price of bread and pasta, which has hit consumers hard, but also on the cost of milk. Cows, big cereal-eaters, have become more expensive to feed and dairy farmers have had to recover the cost by putting up the price they are paid for the milk.
Poland and Spain have called for a stop on milk quotas.
Another measure being put forward is a one-year suspension of cereal import duties for produce coming in from outside the EU. Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel believes the move will also help the tight cereal situation.
But not everyone agrees. French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said once tariffs are suspended, they will be hard to reintroduce and Europe’s tradition of protecting its farmers may be jeopardised.