The agriculture ministers of the European Union have waded into tough negotiations on the next set of reforms for the bloc’s common farm policy. Hopes were high that a compromise might be found before the night was through.
Removing the link between production volumes and the subsidies farms receive is one of the top goals. Modulation – or reducing direct aid to farms in favour of developing other rural activity – is another.
The ministers meeting in Brussels also need to agree on how far the EU member states can intervene to support commodity prices and sensitive sectors. There are marked differences over whether to raise milk quotas across the board before doing away with them entirely, to allow full liberalisation by 2015.
France and Germany are against that. The European Parliament called for a smaller cut in farm aid than that proposed by the Commission and suggested keeping the link between subsidies and production in some areas.
Some MEPs argue that withdrawing all support will especially harm the new member states. Jerzy Buzek, European People’s Party MEP: “We need still great support for our agriculture, because we need a lot of changes, and four years of membership in the EU is not enough. So, we expect for at least the next decade similar support as (there has been) till now.”
As for redirecting funds towards rural development, parliamentarians called for this to proceed more gradually than the Commission has proposed, so as not to hit farmers too hard.