European farmers receive multi-million euro fund

A €500 million package has been unveiled by the European Commission to help support European farmers.

“This package will allow for €500m of EU funds to be used for the benefit of farmers immediately,” explained vice-president of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen.

Speaking at the extraordinary Council of Agriculture Ministers, he added: “This is a robust and decisive response. This response demonstrates that the Commission takes its responsibility towards farmers very seriously and is prepared to back it up with the appropriate funds. This is particularly important, given other competing budgetary demands.”

The package is to be measured in four areas: to help farmers in short-term cash flow difficulties; to address the market imbalance; to tackle supply chains; and to tighten the link between agriculture and society at large.

This decision has come following protests outside the EU headquarters in Brussels.

Frustrated farmers across Europe gathered to voice concerns over falling prices in their produce. However, tempers flared as the protestors clashed with police.

Footage released by Russia Today showed riot police being pummelled by eggs, fireworks and flares. One policeman appeared to be injured as two colleagues were filmed assisting him to safety.

Meanwhile, members of the online community posted videos showing police retorting with water cannons in response to being rammed with tractors.

Concerns

Although the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) welcomed the package, the body’s president Meurig Raymond said there were concerns about how much of the package British farmers would receive. “It is currently unclear how much of this would come to Britain,” he said.

“However, one of the main priorities is the short-term cash flow difficulties facing farmers across all sectors. The Commission has announced that member states can pay up to 70% of their direct payments from 16 October, provided that the necessary checks have been carried out.”

Raymond claimed that a main concern surrounding the announcement was the flexibility required for checks and inspections, so that member states did not run the risk of a disallowance fine. According to Raymond, this was not made clear by the European Commission.

“We believe there needs to be a fundamental cultural change across the whole supply chain and we very much welcome the Commission’s steps to address this so far,” added Raymond. “However, we need to go much further if we are to offer British farmers the same protection they receive at home when they trade abroad.”

Prior to the extraordinary Agriculture Council, the four farming union presidents of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union held a separate meeting.

“Right now, today, farmers are really struggling to pay their bills,” announced the presidents in a joint statement. “This is having a huge impact not only on farming families but for other businesses that rely on the farming sector. We have strongly urged our UK ministers to argue for more flexibility from the Commission to allow the UK government, and the devolved administrations, to pay farmers BPS [basis point] and agri-environment monies at the very least on time and in full. This will help put money where it is needed most.”

Widespread change

The presidents have requested that Secretary of State Liz Truss and the devolved ministers argue that the European Investment Bank (EIB) should be providing financial support to businesses. They also called for the British government to work alongside the EIB to develop opportunities for UK farmers for “short-term credit and long-term infrastructure to boost the agri-food sector”.

The meeting determined that there ought to be a widespread change within the food supply chain that would see farmers receiving rewards for the risks they put in to supplying produce.

Echoing the concerns voiced by Raymond, the statement concluded by saying: “The government and devolved ministers need to deliver on their promises – work together to achieve this culture change across the supply chain and to see real understanding of the cost of production to farmers.”

According to the NFU, 70 farmers from Britain attended the protest in Brussels. Alongside them were NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie, vice-president Rob Livesey, livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam and livestock policy manager John Sleigh.

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