Brussels Daily
24 May 2016


Brussels Daily

Farm crisis and trade talks: Agriculture MEPs urge Phil Hogan to protect EU farmers

EU must be more active in tackling the agriculture crisis and balancing the food supply chain, many MEPs said on Tuesday during the debate with Commissioner Phil Hogan. EU’s executive must protect EU farmers in trade negotiations with the United States and Mercosur countries, simplify the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to cut red tape and resist any attempts to re-nationalise the CAP, they insisted.


Several MEPs pointed out during the debate that the EU has not been active enough in solving the current agriculture crisis. “We would like to see more of a [leading] role [played] by Europe so that the market would be handled more effectively,” said Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT) warning against re-nationalisation of the CAP.

Mr De Castro also called for “increase in effectiveness of greening” and “reduction of red tape” in the EU’s farm policy and “stronger management of crisis” by the EU using tools that MEPs were pushing for already during the last CAP reform in 2013.

His comments were echoed by Jens Rohde (ALDE, DK), who said that “the real threat to the farmers of Europe is the re-nationalisation of the agricultural sector.” Mr Rohde claimed “the flexibility between [CAP] pillars creates re-nationalisation that ruins the level-playing field that allows European farmers to compete in fair manner,” warned that there is “a fair risk that the proposal regarding greenhouse gas within the non-ETS sector will do the same” and asked Mr Hogan to submit proposals to prevent it.


Protecting EU farmers in the supply chain and in trade talks

Albert Dess (EPP, DE) urged Phil Hogan to do away with imbalanced in the food supply chain. “I am thinking of price negotiations, the power of supermarkets, which they are exploiting. They are dictating conditions, imposing them on farmers,” he said stressing that “there is need for action by the Commission.”

Mr Dess also voiced scepticism about the voluntary reduction of milk supply and said the Commission should consider taking “a certain volume of milk (…) of the market.” He also called for a “systemic” simplification of the CAP and urged the Commission to defend interest of EU farmers in international trade negotiations.

James Nicholson (ECR, UK), too, advocated a cautious approach to international trade talks, including negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States and on a trade deal with Mercosur countries. He suggested that EU considers a “moratorium” on international trade agreements “to find out how much more (agricultural produce from third countries) we really can absorb.”


Doing away with monopoly abuses and adjusting supply to demand

“We need real solutions (…) to the grave crisis that the agriculture in Europe is going through,” said Maria Lidia Senra Rodríguez (GUE/NGL, ES). She called for actions to do away with monopoly positions abuses in the dairy supply chain and suggested that TTIP would only worsen the situation of EU farmers.


The Commission should “move away” from putting too much emphasis on exports of EU farm products as a way to stabilize agriculture market in Europe and rather focus on balancing supply and demand in the EU, said Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE) warning that voluntary cuts in productions might prove to be insufficient. He also criticised international trade talks as “a battle between industry and agriculture” and stressed the EU “must clearly say no to TTIP (…) and Mercosur.”


Russian ban, fairer inspections and glyphosate

Opposition to trade talks was voiced also by Philippe Loiseau (ENF, FR). “We have [Russian food] sanctions, which are killing off our businesses, and at the same time we are negotiating on TTIP,” he said. Mr Loiseau also called on the Commission to ensure that on-farm inspections are carried out unbiasedly and competently to make sure farmers are not “living in fear of sanctions.”

John Stuart Agnew (EFDD, UK) pointed out to different definitions of free range eggs in the United States and in the EU and asked whether UK interests are properly defended in the TTIP negotiations. He also voiced concerns over the impact of potential ban on the use of glyphosate in the EU when it comes to imports into the EU of farm outputs produced in third countries with glyphosate used on crops.


Next steps

The Agriculture committee will hold a public hearing on Wednesday evening to discuss with dairy sector representatives new measures to limit milk production and thus stabilize prices. In a plenary debate on Thursday morning, MEPs will address the sharp decline in milk producers’ income and demand actions to improve their situation.

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