December Agriculture Council Discusses CAP Future, Dairy and New Quality Rules

The Agriculture Council met in Brussels on Tuesday 14th December for the last time under the 2010 Belgium Presidency. The morning meeting was dominated by two major discussions surrounding the Commission’s dairy reform package which was released last week as well as a revision of the EU quality rules. Over lunch Ministers discussed how to target CAP funds better to “active farmers”. The afternoon session was taken up with a Council policy debate on the Communication on the CAP towards 2020.

Dairy Reform Plans Gain Broad Support

Agriculture Ministers were in broad agreement over the Commission’s dairy reform package, which had been released formally the previous week by Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos. The package is an output of the Commission’s High Level Group (HLG) on dairy. Broadly speaking, the package aims to give more bargaining power to farmers in price negotiations by encouraging them to join together. On the whole Member States seemed quite positive about the steps made in the plans, as the HLG was formed with their blessing.

Quality Rules Review Separate Member States

It seems that Member States are split in their views over the Commission’s new proposal to set up a comprehensive policy on certification schemes, value-adding terms for agricultural product qualities, and professional standards for the first time. The package has twin aims: to guarantee both quality to consumers and a fair price for farmers. Some Member States are concerned about the package component relating to the scheme aimed at supporting market products based on traditional recipes (TGS), fearing the proposals will have market distorting effects. The Agriculture Commissioner defended the proposals, justifying the measures which he assured Ministers would be used to “identify products with specific characteristics”.

Continuing Debate on the CAP 2020 Communication

Exchanges took forward several key issues presented by the Member States in the previous Council debate. From the environmental perspective, the views with regard to the issues of simplification, greening of Pillar One, and the support to Less Favoured Areas (LFA) are worth attention. Ministers were almost unanimous in stressing the need to protect support to LFAs. They differed in terms of the actual approach, with Poland favouring the deployment of both Pillars, and Austria and Germany arguing vehemently for keeping it under Pillar Two, supported by Italy. Commissioner Ciolos touched on the topic in the post-council press conference, indicating that LFA is “an important area on which further discussion is needed”, as well as confirming the Commission’s intention to provide both a higher flat-rate payments to farmers in the delineated LFA zones under Pillar One, thereby addressing the natural handicap of a zone itself, and specifically tailored top-ups to farmers under Pillar Two. His remarks echoed the Commissioner’s statements in the Special Committee on Agriculture last week where a number of Member States, among them Finland, Bulgaria, Austria, and France, expressed concerns and asked for more clarity on the Commission’s plans.

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PUBLICATION DATE

21 Dec 2010

AUTHOR

IEEP

FURTHER INFORMATION

The Institute for European Environmental Policy coordinates CAP2020. It is an independent not for profit institute which undertakes research in a number of policy areas including agriculture and rural development.