Brussels takes steps to assist farmers affected by drought

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In light of the difficulties faced by European farmers affected by drought this summer, the European Commission is acting to provide practical support to the sector. Additional flexibility will be granted to help farmers provide sufficient feed to their animals.

Brussels has presented an additional package of actions aimed at increasing the availability of fodder resources for livestock, one of the main challenges faced by farmers dealing with the impact of drought. This package complements measures announced a month ago.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, said: “The Commission reacted swiftly to the first signals of these extreme climatic events and I keep following the situation closely. I am in contact with ministers from affected member states as we are assessing the adequacy of the actions already in place. We are today taking additional action which I believe should provide relief to European farmers against the shortage of feed for animals.

“I welcome the recent announcements by several member states ready to act for their agricultural sector, and I will continue working with them to ensure they use to the full extent the possibilities available, most notably within the Common Agricultural Policy.”

In the first instance, the proposal on higher advanced payments, already announced a few weeks ago has been formally tabled. If agreed, farmers will be able to receive up to 70% of their direct payment and 85% of payments under rural development already as of mid-October 2018 instead of waiting until December to improve their cash flow situation.

Additional derogations referenced by the Commission concern certain greening rules. These include the possibility to consider winter crops, which are normally sown in autumn for harvesting/grazing as catch crops (prohibited under current rules) if intended for grazing/fodder production.

There is also an option to sow catch crops as pure crops (and not a mixture of crops as currently prescribed) if intended for grazing/fodder production

In all cases, the Commission will ensure that all these measures are implemented in a proportionate way, taking into account environmental concerns. For example, under existing state aid rules, aid of up to 80% of the damage caused by drought (or up to 90% in Areas of Natural Constraint) can be provided, subject to certain specific conditions.

The purchase of fodder can qualify for aid as either material damage or income loss. Compensation for damage can also be granted without the need to notify the Commission (the so-called “de minimis aid”) with amounts up to €15,000 per farmer over three years.

Relief possibilities also exist under rural development, including the financing of re-seeding of pastures for example or compensation for loss of income.

These proposals should be formally adopted by the end of September. The measures will apply retro-actively.