MEPs debate agri support package

Jim Nicholson
Jim Nicholson
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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson outlined a number of concerns regarding the Commission’s agricultural support package to the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan during a debate this week.

The debate in the European Parliament focused on the European Commission’s response to the difficulties currently facing farmers.

Diane Dodds

Diane Dodds

Mr Nicholson said that whilst measures in the package would help in the long term only a review of the intervention price would assist dairy farmers in the short run.

Addressing Commissioner Hogan who appeared before MEPs to discuss the Commission’s package of support, Mr Nicholson said: “There is no doubt that €500 million is a lot of money. But the problem arises when we get down to individual member states, and regions within them. By the time the money gets down to individual farms there may not be much left to actually alleviate the pain farmers are facing. In my own constituency of Northern Ireland this is exacerbated by the weakness of the Euro against the Pound and the lack of action on the intervention price.”

The MEP has welcomed the many measures contained within the package which will benefit the agricultural industry in the longer term, such as; improving the MMO, boosting exports and addressing the functioning of the supply chain.

Meanwhile, DUP MEP Diane Dodds said that while she welcomed the relative clarity given by Commissioner Hogan, it falls short of bringing forward the action required to support those sectors facing a dramatic fall in farm gate prices.

She added: “There is no doubt that the Commissioner has in some areas pushed his officials to do more; particularly in-terms of flexibility given around advanced payments, state aid and the use of targeted aid. I still believe the targeted aid package is not the most effective use of public money and will ultimately be of little financial benefit to those who really need it. In fact the amount of money available to farmers when distributed will be a piecemeal offering and may be divisive among farmers. The Commission has a limited fund and we must utilise what we have effectively. Hence why I would urge the Commissioner to rethink his position on intervention, however I feel he has tweaked private storage aid as a means of stalling amidst this pressure.”

She said the onus is now on the DARD Minister to seriously consider advanced payments given the flexibility in terms of on the spot inspections and the level of the advance.