The European Commission’s report into the dairy farming crisis was published today and as expected, it states that reducing production quotas is out of the question.
Dairy farmers complain that milk prices have halved since 2007 and that reducing quotas is the only way to boost prices. But the Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, who herself comes from a farming family, does not agree. Defending the report, she said that other measures were avilable for boosting prices and increasing demand. She said that the Commission was increasing the limits for state aid from 7500 to 15000 euros per farmer. SHe also said that the Commission was proposing better management of the current quotas system. She said that the Commission would be looking at ways of promoting milk consumption including a school milk scheme. She also said that producers should band together so as to increase their negotiating power when selling their milk to supermarket giants. The report comes on the heels of a meeting yesterday at the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee at which MEPs supported calls from the European Milk Board for lowering milk production levels, and compensating farmers with subsidies. After that meeting, José Bové, the Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee said. “This policy has no benefit to the consumer because nothing has changed when we buy a carton of milk of a packet of butter. So who does benefit from this crime? I think the European Commission is taking a completely ideological view. It’s pure ideology to say ‘‘liberalising the market, liberalising agricultural policy,will sort the problem out’‘. That’s not true. We see the opposite. Every three minutes in Europe a farm disappears. That’s the real situation.” And so the battle lines are drawn. It is clear that solving the European milk crisis is more than a question of the price of your morning pinta. It’s a classic ideological struggle between people who believe in liberalised free markets and people who believe in regulated market controls. And as long as prices remain low, the clash is set to continue.