COMMENT: Too little, too late?

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This week’s news from Brussels, confirming that the European Commission has woken up to the fact that a deep crisis is now impacting with European agriculture should be welcomed – up to a point. But, let’s just hope this is not a case of Brussels trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The reality is that the dogs in the street have known for almost a year that farmers, certainly in this part of the world, have been under financial pressure, the likes of which they have never had to deal with before.

Throughout this period Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan was telling the world that the EU will always support Europe’s family farms while, at the same time, doing precious little to make this commitment a reality.

And Brussels has past history in this regard. Even a quick review of the downturns that have deeply affected agriculture over the past 20 years will confirm that the Commission always acted too late in the day. Instead of trying to nip problems in the bud, the number crunchers always waited for chaos to ensue, before acting.

Adding to the concern genuinely felt by many local farmers is the fact that they now know how the banks could react to their plight, if the need arises: sell off the debt to another financial institution.

I suppose you could call this the Pontius Pilate approach to banking.

But we can’t change history. The genuinely good news from Brussels this week is the fact that the EU Commission now seems willing to pick up other cudgels and fight for European farmers. But they better get their skates on because time is running out for family farm businesses the length and breadth of Europe.