Some 7,000 tobacco farmers (organisers say more)have been protesting in Brussels for an extension of European Union financial support. They came from Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece, France and Germany – afraid their livelihoods will go up in smoke.
This was after the bloc’s agriculture chief refused to bow to demands to prolong subsidies for tobacco growers in this week’s farm reform talks.
The eight main EU tobacco-producing countries have said they want existing subsidies extended to 2013. That is in spite of an agreement reached four years ago that will see the historic link between cash and production volume scrapped from 2010.
EU ministers took up negotiating on farm reforms following debate and a vote in the European Parliament.
Under the 2004 deal, subsidies for tobacco growers will not depend on how much they produce. That is the famous decoupling coming into effect. Half of the total payments will be shifted into a restructuring fund to help farmers improve yields or switch to other crops.