Nicholson calls for action from EU agri ministers

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has slammed the EU’s Agriculture Council as “weak and ineffective” and called on the EU’s Agriculture Ministers to support action to assist dairy farmers who he said cannot continue to “absorb the pain” of falling prices any longer.

Mr Nicholson made the comments earlier this week as Luxembourg’s Agriculture Minister, Fernand Etgen, appeared before the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee to discuss the agri priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency.

Luxembourg took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 July, Mr Etgen and his team will plan and chair meetings of the EU’s Agriculture Ministers for the six month term until the role is taken over by the Netherlands on 1 January.

Speaking after the debate Mr Nicholson said: “Luxembourg takes over the responsibility of the presidency at what is a very difficult time for the agricultural industry throughout Europe. I am in my 26th year on the Agriculture Committee and I cannot remember a period when so many different sectors have faced economic difficulties all at the same time.

“This week the GlobalDairyTrade auction plunged a further 10.7%, the ninth consecutive fall. In spite of the pain being felt by dairy farmers the commissioner had the audacity to tell MEPs last week that he would not intervene with more meaningful action to support the sector.

“Once again we are seeing Europe do too little far, far too late – just as it acted too late in 2008/09.

“While we often blame the European Commission for everything the Agriculture Council, which is made up of the Agriculture Ministers from each EU country, also has an important role to play here.

“The Agriculture Council does however seem to be one of the most weak and ineffective bodies of people we have, it doesn’t seem to be able to make decisions. Many ministers appear to prefer to sit on their hands and abstain rather than make the harsh decisions needed to defend the industry.

“While I note that some ministers are now individually calling for support in their own local papers they need to be acting together. It is only action at the central level that will help to solve this crisis.”

Mr Nicholson concluded: “Dairy farmers cannot continue to absorb and take this pain, it is running on far too long. I appealed to the new chair of the Agriculture Council to take the facts on board and to challenge Agriculture Ministers and the European Commission to implement the recommendations contained within my dairy report in the interests of dairy farmers.”