Deadline extended for direct payment applications

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Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan announced last week that he will extend the deadline for aid applications for direct payments from May 15 to June 15.

The commissioner came under pressure to make the move at meetings with farm ministers last week. The extension will apply for 2015 only and will be voluntary for member states.

A number of countries are having problems with adjusting to the new application procedures and the commissioner said in a statement that he has allowed the extension ‘so that farmers do not suffer the consequences of delays on the part of administrations’.

Hogan discusses

simplification with MEPs

Commissioner Hogan discussed his ongoing work on simplifying the CAP with members of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee this week.

Having received 110 pages of ideas from the committee, the commissioner reiterated his intention to respect the political decisions agreed in 2014 but said that unnecessary burdens for farmers and governments could be alleviated by dealing with some of the implementing regulations.

In his opening remarks, the commissioner confirmed his desire to revisit the rules around ecological focus areas but only once a year of data was available for scrutiny. He also promised to revisit the rules on small and young farmers and eligibility criteria for active farmers.

MEPs were not shy in lamenting the reforms made by the previous commission. Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson (Northern Ireland) highlighted the reluctance of commission officials to agree to changes: “If you are genuine about change, we are prepared to work with you,” he said.

Both Stuart Agnew MEP (Eastern, UKIP) and Paul Brannen MEP (North East, Labour) questioned whether the extended window for Basic Payment Scheme submissions would result in a delay to payments to farmers in the UK later in the year.

Finally, the commissioner confirmed that he hoped to reach a conclusion in the Agriculture Council on the issue of simplification in May or June of this year and encouraged the committee to consider bringing together its views in a report over the coming months.

European Dairy

Association Policy

Conference

Last week the European Dairy Association held their annual conference in Brussels to discuss the future of the dairy industry.

Jim Nicholson MEP (Northern Ireland, Ulster Unionist) confirmed that the prospects for dairy remain favourable.

A commission official stated that the European dairy industry is ready for major expansion into the global market, based on the huge potential for milk and dairy products, although he added that there will continue to be periods of extreme volatility.

It was also confirmed that the Commission will look at the Milk Market Observatory to enhance and improve its relevance.

There were some wide ranging discussions with calls for an increase in the intervention price, risk management tools and a market based insurance system.