The presidents of the four UK farming unions were in Brussels this week for key meetings in the European Commission and the European Parliament.
NFU president Meurig Raymond, NFU Cymru president Stephen James, NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie and Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell raised a number of key priorities with MEPs and European Commission officials.
The four president’s prioritised discussion on the Bird Flu outbreak in the UK and the risk it is presenting to free range egg and poultry meat producers. In particular, the UK farming unions are calling on the commission to extend the 12-week housing restriction due to the highly pathogenic nature of the disease and apply this extension to both free range eggs and free range poultry meat.
Among other meetings, the group met with agriculture committee members Jim Nicholson MEP (Ulster Unionist, Northern Ireland), Anthea McIntyre MEP (Conservative, West Midlands), Paul Brannen MEP (Labour, North East), Julie Girling MEP (Conservative, South West) and Diane Dodds MEP (Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland).
MEPs discuss greening simplification proposals
The ‘delegated act’ aimed at simplifying the CAP greening measures was discussed by MEPs in agriculture committee last week. Among other measures the European Commission is proposing to ban the use of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on ecological focus area options, a move opposed by the UK farming unions and others.
The concern is that the ban will not only make life more complicated for the farmer on the ground but could increase the pressure of pests and disease on neighbouring crops. It could also effectively force most farmers away from EFA options such as cover crops and nitrogen fixing crops. The debate in committee last week was heated on this issue with some MEPs claiming that the commission is trying to introduce policy changes ‘by the back door’ as the process for delegated acts does not allow the MEPs to make significant changes to the proposals. Discussions will continue over the coming weeks.
Milk Market Observatory
Last week the European Milk Market Observatory (MMO) reported an average increase of 25% on farm gate milk prices since July. During the same period, production has fallen with milk deliveries down 3.7% for November.
Globally, the USDA predicts that 2016 USA milk production will have increased by 1.9%. New Zealand has experienced a fall in production of around 3% for the June to November season. There has been a gradual increase in global exports in 2016 with EU cheese exports now at the same level they were before the Russian embargo was implemented. The commission is expecting milk deliveries for the first half of 2017 to be below levels seen in 2016, but these may increase towards the end of the year and result in a small overall production increase of 0.5%.
CAP 2020 consultation due this week
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan is due to publish a consultation on the CAP post 2020. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks and is expected to contain 30 questions on the future direction for the policy.
The European farmers’ organisation, Copa, outlined its priorities for the future CAP in meetings last week stressing the need for a strong, stable, simple policy that ensures a level playing field and that is underpinned by a robust budget.
The importance of risk management tools to cope with extreme market volatility and the need to activate these measures in an efficient way was also emphasised.