Milk farmers protesting over low prices to the point of whitening entire fields with the stuff have won a concession from Brussels. The rudder of agricultural reform, the European Commission, has agreed to allow national aid for struggling producers.
Defender of French tradition and new European Parliament member Jose Bove demanded that EU-regulated milk quotas be tightened by five percent. This would restrict availability, he said, and help restore prices to tolerable levels. He insisted that the policy of letting the market alone govern conditions must not last. Europe’s chief agricultural official has refused to go back on a political decision to phase out production quotas by 2015, but she appeared to bend slightly to the clamour of alarm. EU Agriculture Commisioner Mariann Fischer Boel acknowledged that not everyone agrees with her deregulation moves but said these were politically justifiable. Boel said: “First, state aid: (our report has) floated the idea that Member States could temporarily offer an aid up to 15,000 euros for farmers under this temporary crisis framework. The Commission has already launched the boat and expects to change the rules in the coming weeks. Good news: prices are improving, for example, in one month, butter prices have been going up by four percent in France, eight percent in Germany and even more in UK.” Their desperation growing, some milk producers who first began holding back supply in France and Belgium have been joined by others elsewhere in Europe but the impact on consumers has been negligible.