European Commission accused of ignoring MEPs over dairy crisis

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it welcomes backing for enhanced support for the dairy industry coming from members of the European parliament – but says it is angry that the European Commission will still not acknowledge there is a crisis in the industry.

“Inevitably these are complex issues, but we were glad to see that many members of the committee understood the scale of the problem,” said UFU president, Ian Marshall. “Like them we do not want to see supply controls – quotas – reintroduced to interfere with the free market when there is a crisis. But we do believe the price at which Brussels has to support the market must be more realistic than a figure set in 2003 and not reviewed since 2008,” he said.

Mr Marshall said the UFU, and farmers across Europe, would be frustrated to see again that the farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, used an appearance at the committee to insist that increasing the intervention price would not be the answer.

“That might be acceptable if Mr Hogan was producing an alternative response but he is not. He has now been told by a majority of MEPs on the committee that they support a fresh look at intervention. Let’s hope he finds this pressure harder to resist than he has the message coming from the farming lobby that he is wrong to insist there is no crisis when dairy farmers’ incomes have plunged in every member state of the EU,” said Mr Marshall.

The UFU president added that a further frustration for the UFU was that it has submitted to Brussels a report setting out the case for increased intervention support, which had been ignored by the commissioner along with the views of other farm lobby organisations across the EU.

Meanwhile, tntroducing better tools for dealing with market disturbances and helping farmers to find new outlets for produce shut out of the Russian market are some suggestions made by the MEPs in two non-binding resolutions voted earlier this week.

“We must use existing tools more effectively, but the EU must also do more to help its dairy sector become a global leader and not a global follower,” said Jim Nicholson (ECR, UK) who drafted the milk resolution and steered the so-called Milk Package through the Parliament in 2012. The resolution, on prospects for the EU dairy sector, was approved by 510 votes to 154, with 44 abstentions.