EU Taskforce must find solutions

editorial image

DUP MEP Diane Dodds has reiterated the need for long term answers for the dairy sector after numerous dairy reports that have failed to have any impact toward limiting the impact of market failures over the past year.

At the height of the dairy crisis early this year, the European Commission formed an Agriculture Markets Taskforce to investigate and make recommendations to Commissioner Phil Hogan. The role of the Taskforce was to recommend ways to improve the position of farmers in the food chain, something which is undoubtedly required.

Key areas of focus are market transparency, futures and access to finance. Given the difficult financial climate facing many farmers, I had hoped that this piece of work would have been completed already. It is disappointing therefore that the latest indication is that it may be the end of this year or beginning of 2017 before we know the findings.

Unfortunately, this outcome is nothing new.

In my time as an MEP, I have seen numerous opinions and reports conducted on the dairy sector specifically, most recently the Dairy Package and the review of the dairy package. If you ask farmers have any of these reports helped them over the past two years I would imagine the answer would be no.

The stark reality is that the European Commission is failing to recognise the challenges facing farmers at the coal face. Back in 2009 and even in the last year the Commission were slow to react to falling global milk prices. In the current crisis, the EU has allocated up to €1bn to support a number of sectors, however I question, as I am sure many farmers do, whether this money has been well spent.

In the case of the dairy sector, ill-advised policy decisions were taken, such as the removal of quotas and the reticence of the Commission to use market intervention tools earlier. This did not tackle the real issues and we must question why so much money had to be spent with such a little impact on the ground.

I await the outcome of the Taskforce work, but I do hope we can look back on its efforts with a greater sense of achievement.